Mattie Moss Clark

Gospel Vocals, Composer Donald Vails

Born: 1928 Selma, AL

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame


Born Mattie Juliet Moss, the seventh of nine children to Fred Moss and Mattie J. Walker in Selma, Alabama, began playing the piano when she was six years old. By 12, she became the musician for her mother's services at the Church of Christ and Prayer. After high school, she attended Selma University and received training in classical music and choral singing. In addition, she continued to travel with her mother and play at her mission services.

She moved to Detroit in 1947 to be with her sister Sybil Burke and became a member of Greater Love Tabernacle Church of God in Christ. There, under the leadership of Bishop W. Rimson, she was baptized in the Holy Ghost and subsequently became the Minister of Music. She served an historic tenure as Minister of Music for both Southwest Michigan Jurisdiction and Bailey Temple Church of God in Christ, under Bishop John Seth Bailey. Soon when she was in demand to train choirs at churches throughout the brotherhood of COGIC. She married her first husband, Mr. Cullum, and that union produced two children: Leo and Jacqueline. Her next marriage was to Elder Elbert Clark, and unto their union four daughters were born: Denise, Elbernita (known as "Twinkie"), Dorinda and Karen. Gospel singer J. Moss is her nephew.

In 1958, she recorded "Going to Heaven to Meet the King", with the Southwest Michigan State Choir, becoming the first person to commit the sounds of a choir to record. She was also the first person to separate vocal parts into soprano, alto and tenor. She received three gold albums with the Southwest Michigan State Choir, and went on to write and arrange hundreds of songs and recorded over 50 albums.

She directed Cadillac Motor Company's Christmas choir for 11 years and also conducted community-wide mass choirs for the prestigious NAACP Freedom Fund Dinners. In 1979, she founded the Clark Conservatory of Music in Detroit, which established itself as one of the most prestigious schools of its kind in the country. In 1981, Trinity College in Pennsylvania conferred upon her one of their highest honors, the degree of Doctor of Humanity. After the death of Bishop Bailey in 1985, she continued as State Minister of Music for Southwest Michigan Jurisdiction #1, attending Greater Mitchell Church of God in Christ, under Bishop J.H. Sheard. She was also one of the editors and contributors to the hymnal published by the Church of God in Christ entitled, Yes, Lord.

When the late Bishop J.O. Patterson appointed her the International President of the Music Department in 1968, she worked to instill within musicians and choirs a responsibility to Christ as well as capability for Christ. Throughout her efforts, young people especially received her and many were saved, and uplifted by her music and message.

She completely revolutionized the music departments. She gave definition to the role of State Minister of Music, traveled year-round to every state in the country conducting workshops, rehearsals and musicals to prepare choirs for service on the National Church level and organized the structure of the National Music Convention of the Church of God in Christ. Dr. Clark introduced the workshop and seminar concept to the convention, and, along with her staff, structured classes for the convention and created "A Star Is Born", the program where new talent was introduced before thousands.

As her health declined, Dr. Clark never lost the fire and passion for her mission. An accomplished musician, arranger, composer, leader, director, teacher and exemplary woman of God, Dr. Clark died on Thursday September 22, 1994 in Southfield, Michigan at the age of 69.


Dr. Mattie Moss Clark was a gospel choir director for most of her life, and is often credited as one of the first to teach three-part harmony to a choir. Born in 1925 in Selma, AL, Clark relocated to Detroit, MI, in 1958, and shortly thereafter organized the Southwest Michigan State Choir of the Church of God in Christ. In addition to being a songwriter, vocalist, pianist, arranger, and choir director, Clark was also president of the National Music Deptartment of the Church of God in Christ for 25 years, and founded the Clark Conservatory School of Music in Detroit. Over the years, Clark recorded with such artists as Elder James Moore, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Elder James Lennox, Rev. Richard "Mr. Clean" White, and Betty Ransom Nelson, while Clark also helped such artists as Walter Hawkins, Hezekiah Walker, and Richard Smallwood get their careers started. Clark recorded more than 35 albums during her career (and was one of the first gospel artists to receive a gold-certified album), before passing away at the age of 69, on September 22, 1994, in Southfield, MI. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi



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