The Texas Gospel Music Hall of Fame and Museum is a nonprofit organization established in 1985 in Arlington, Texas, by Calvin Wills, member of the Singing Wills Family, to preserve and promote the heritage of gospel music history. Wills modeled his vision after the Gospel Music Association and Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame, but with a focus on the accomplishments of the many singers and musicians who were native Texans. The organization was officially chartered as the Texas Music Hall of Fame in 1987 and later rechartered as the Texas Gospel Music Museum and Hall of Fame in 2003.
The Hall of Fame’s first inductees were V. O. Stamps, a noted singer, writer, and publisher, and J. R. Baxter, both founders of the Stamps-Baxter Music Company in Dallas and the Stamps-Baxter School of Music. Many more accomplished Texas singers and musicians, such as Robert S. Arnold, Duane Allen (the Oak Ridge Boys), Bob L. Wills (the Singing Wills Family), Larry and Rudy Gatlin, as well as newer contemporary artists, Cynthia Clawson and Dallas Holm, followed.
The induction process for new members began with a public presentation to the artist and ended with a permanent display in the museum. After numerous statewide presentations, the Hall of Fame temporarily located on the downtown square in Granbury, Texas, in 1996. Three years later Wills decided to take the museum to the people by loading memorabilia on buses and creating a traveling exhibit. For the next fifteen years he displayed these items at many concerts and churches as promotion for the Hall of Fame and Museum.
With a vast and growing collection, the major historical elements of the museum center around five areas: printed music (shaped note songbooks and sheet music), a collection of 4,000 phonograph records (78 rpm, 45’s, and 33 1/3 LP records), a classic collection of more than twenty microphones from the early days of gospel performances, more than 1,000 photographs, and various memorabilia including record players, tape machines, antique radio equipment, posters, quartet souvenirs, and educational materials to name a few.
In 2002 Calvin Wills passed away, and his son Randy was elected by the board of directors to be the Hall of Fame’s president. Randy had served on the board for five years prior to becoming president. He continued the work and vision of his father by establishing the Calvin Wills Memorial Concert Series, which served as a fundraising source for the organization. The first concert, which featured Rudy Gatlin, the Southern Charm Trio, Bob Wills and the Inspirationals, the Huckaba Family, and all former members of the Singing Wills Family, was held in June 2003 at the Johnnie High’s Country Music Revue theater (Arlington Music Hall) in Arlington and was a huge success. This was followed by Randy initiating an official website for the Hall of Fame.
As of 2011 plans were to open a facility in Dallas that would house office space, with areas to showcase some of the museum’s displays, and a recording studio. Ongoing projects included converting phonograph recordings of classic gospel music records and analog television programs to digital formats as well as completing a high quality preservation photo book from the collection of photographs housed in the museum. More than 100 individuals and groups had been inducted into the Hall of Fame.