impressed by Phipps’ musical ability, invited him to sing to the
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Chicago. It was
here he met the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who invited him to accompany
him to Africa to witness the evils of apartheid firsthand.
His reputation as a gospel singer grew quickly simply by word of mouth.
“I never had a manager, publicist or agent,” said Phipps, who for 25
years was part of the Rev. Billy Graham’s famed crusades.
CONNECTS WITH EVERYONE
Movers and shakers were drawn to both his powerful voice and
his spirituality. The fact that six very different presidents from
competing parties — Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, both father
and son Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — sought him out is
testament to his ability to connect with everyone.
One particular evening, he sang for President Clinton before rushing
across town to sing at a major Republican function. He sang at
SPRING 2022: 19
WINTLEY PHIPPS PHOTOS
Phipps’ wife, Linda, who he met in college, always accompanies the
singing pastor as he travels around the world.
in the radio and began trying to mimic this compelling
bass baritone. Decades later, he invited wife, Linda, to
that star’s concert.
“I bought plane tickets and concert tickets and sent
him a note that he had been my musical North Star,”
Sir Tom Jones responded with an invitation to meet
him after the concert.
Phipps’ musical turnaround from rock to gospel began
at a Christian boarding school in Canada, where he
grew up. Disgruntled at being recruited into the school
choir, he grumbled to the headmaster.
“Why don’t you for once do what God wants you to do,
not what you want to do?” asked the wise educator, and
Phipps decided it was time to let faith do its work.
His surrender allowed him a glimpse of what God had
been dreaming for him. When the Heritage Singers
American gospel group invited Phipps to tour with
them during summer break, he was stunned.
“It was the first time I’ve had a prayer answered,”
At Oakwood College, a Seventh-day Adventist school in
Huntsville, Alabama, he was introduced to gospel music
and to Linda, his wife of 45 years. The school president,
Former President Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy, listen as Phipps preaches. The
Vero Beach resident has sung for six sitting presidents.
President Bill Clinton confers with Phipps during a visit to the Oval Office.