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DEWITTY, VIRGIE CARRINGTON

DEWITTY, VIRGIE CARRINGTON (ca. 1913–1980). Virgie Carrington DeWitty, music teacher and choir director, was born in Wetumka, Oklahoma, around 1913. She was the daughter of William and Violet Carrington. The family moved to Austin when Virgie was a small child and joined Ebenezer Baptist Church, where her mother sang in the choir for forty-eight years. Because of a strong musical influence and encouragement at home and at church, Virgie started playing the piano by ear at home. One Sunday when she was five, the Sunday school had no pianist. Her mother led her to the piano, where she played and sang her first solo, "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam." From that time until her death she played for Ebenezer Third Baptist Church.

She received her formal education from the Phillips White Private Academy, Austin public schools, and Tillotson (now Huston-Tillotson) College, where she earned a diploma in education and music. She received a bachelor of science degree in music from Prairie View A&M College (now Prairie View A&M University) and a bachelor of arts degree and teaching certificate in light opera from the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago. She also studied in Boulder, Colorado, at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City, and at the University of Texas at Austin. She married Arthur DeWitty, an Austin civic leader, in 1932; they had no children.

From 1938 to 1940 Virgie DeWitty directed the radio program The Bright and Early Choir over the Texas Quality Network. She composed more than 100 gospel songs, spirituals, and anthems. One of her most famous pieces was "Magnify the Lord." She taught music at Anderson High School in Austin and composed the school song. She also taught private classes in voice and piano for many years. Her specialty was writing four-part-harmony anthems and religious music for choirs.

She was a charter member of the Alpha Kappa Zeta chapter of Zeta Phi Beta sorority and a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Douglas Club. She received the 1957 Woman's Day Speaker award from Ebenezer Baptist Church. She was active in the Missionary Baptist General Convention of Texas and the National Baptist Convention of America. She died on August 11, 1980, at Holy Cross Hospital in East Austin. In 1991 a fund for music students was established from her estate. In 2008 Dewitty was an inaugural inductee in the Austin Music Memorial, honoring her cultural contributions to that city.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Austin American-Statesman, August 28, 1980, June 21, 27, 1992. Austin Music Memorial 2008 inductees (http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/music/memorial08.htm), accessed June 26, 2008. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Kharen Monsho

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Kharen Monsho, "DEWITTY, VIRGIE CARRINGTON," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fdefv), accessed September 17, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on September 22, 2011. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.