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Bill Gaither is shown at the piano.

PENDLETON — Bill Gaither is known internationally for creating gospel music so it’s no wonder that he’s the first guest in a new series about Hoosier legends at the Pendleton Community Public Library.

The Indiana Living Biography Series will profile four people this year, sharing stories of their personal history, anecdotes about growing up in Indiana, and the people who influenced them the most.

While Gaither has touched people throughout the world with his singing and songwriting, his fame has not drawn him away from his hometown. He has remained in Alexandria and he has no intention of moving.

“This is home. I was born here and a big part of my family is here,” he said. “It just made sense along the way to stay here.”

Music was a natural love for Gaither. By junior high, he was spellbound with the possibilities music could offer that could be found nowhere else.

“I think there are some things that are accomplished by words and poetry and drama and art and music that cannot be accomplished by pure facts,” he said. “And I guess, for that reason, it got my attention. I loved the beauty of it. I loved the beauty of harmony – the music coming together.”

While his talent was evident early on, at times the reaction from family and friends proved to be an obstacle.

“The big problem for a kid who wants to do music or athletics – because they are both fun things to do – is the same,” Gaither explained. “The question my father was asked many times as I was growing up was: ‘What is Bill interested in?’ The answer was: ‘Music’.

“And the next question was always: ‘Well, what’s he going to do for a living?’ And that’s a very fair question. Not everybody can make a living doing what they love to do. I’m very blessed and very grateful I’m able to make a living creating music.”

Not only has Gaither established himself to be very successful at creating music people are willing to purchase, he has also helped many other gospel singers and songwriters further their careers. The Homecoming series of videos brought many artists together before the public and provided them with exposure.

“The message of the Gospel is inclusiveness and bringing people together,” Gaither said. “I think Martin Luther King gets the credit for the statement: ‘There are more things that unite us than those things that divide us.’ I think we are stronger together than we are out on our own.”

That’s the message he took to other gospel artists in 1991 when he began recruiting for the Homecoming series.

“Eighteen years later it has proven to be true,” he reflected. “We were stronger together than we were separately. It seemed to be a natural thing for me to do. I’ve always enjoyed playing on a team better than playing by myself. I think of what I do a lot like parenting – if I do my job well, I’ll finally work myself out of a job.”

Like many from this area, Gaither’s family was strongly rooted in General Motors and has been affected by the changes triggered when the company withdrew from the county.

“All my family, my granddad and all his brothers, worked for GM,” Gaither recalled. “I think that it’s changed the culture of the county because that was a wonderful financial base to have here. I kid some folks because we also started about 40 years ago here in our county – so we were GM, too. But we’re the only GM that’s still here.”

If you go:

Indiana Living Biography Series featuring Bill Gaither

Where: Pendleton Community Public Library

When: Tuesday, March 17, 7 p.m.

Cost: $15 per person, $25 per couple. Tickets are available from the Pendleton Community Public Library.

Event Co-sponsors: WIPB-TV and Indiana Public Radio

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