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Tom Leatherwood
Historical Markers of Shelby County

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William Herbert Brewster, Sr. 1897-1987

Born on July 2, 1897, in Somerville, Tenn., to sharecropper parents, the Rev. William H. Brewster was a prolific composer of gospel music, contributing over 200 works to the repertory. Two of his compositions, Move On Up a Little Higher (1946) and Surely, God is Able (1949) were the first black gospel recordings to sell over a million copies. An editor, educator, and poet, he founded the Brewster Theological Clinic, with branches in 25 U.S. cities. Known as the "father of gospel drama," he was honored for his music by the Smithsonian Institution in 1982. A year later, French television produced a program about his work. For many years, Dr. Brewster's home stood in the vicinity.