Barbara Jean Houser Morton (Lackey)

1927 - 1987

Barbara Morton, a contralto with an extended vocal range of almost four octaves, was a well-known recording and performing artist in the Seventh-day Adventist church in the 1950s through the 1980s. She traveled widely, performing as a soloist in Adventist churches, for numerous evangelistic meetings, and at two quadrennial sessions of the General Conference as well as at camp meetings and special meetings for the youth.

Barbara was born in Bell, California, the oldest of three daughters of James Wesley and Thelma Eleitha Lynham Houser. While she and her sisters sang as a girls' trio when young, Barbara would be the only one to pursue a career in music. Although she did not have voice lessons, at age three she started singing publicly and continued to do so all through her grade school and high school years.

As early as eighth grade she sang some of the contralto solos from Handel's Messiah with the high school choir when the family was still living in Bell. When the Housers moved to Oregon in 1941, she attended high school in Yoncalla for her first three years and then attended the Cottage Grove, Oregon, high school for her senior year. She was chosen to sing a leading role in an operetta presented by the school that year.

During her teens she had dreamed of becoming an opera singer and started earning money for lessons in her late teens by singing with dance bands. When she graduated from high school in 1945, she was offered a music scholarship to attend the University of Oregon in Eugene, but decided to marry Clyde (Bud) Miles Morton, Jr., that summer.

Barbara had been raised a Baptist but became a Seventh-day Adventist following her marriage, because of the influence of her mother-in-law. She began singing on Pearls of Praise, a program on a Eugene, Oregon, radio station in the late 1940s, and her recordings would later be regularly featured on Songs for the Heart, a Portland radio station.

Morton started recording with Chapel Records in the late 1950s and would eventually record over a dozen records under that label, one of them featuring her as a soloist with the Mitzelfelt Chorale, a highly regarded Southern California ensemble of which she was a member. One of her albums, Right Now, released in September 1970, received the highest rating in Billboard magazine. It was the first recording on the "Bridge" label, a new contemporary label with Chapel Records, a division of Pacific Press Publishing Association. A 1997 three-volume CD/cassette tape compilation featuring eleven artists, Legends, We are What We Were, prepared by Jim McDonald, included her singing three songs.

Following a divorce in 1960, she studied voice with John T. Hamilton at La Sierra College, now University, and Doris Castor of Claremont College. In 1964 she moved to Angwin, California, and later in that decade attended Pacific Union College, where she took mostly religion classes and sang in Pro Musica, the school's select choir.

She had wide-ranging tastes in music and included songs from choral masterpieces by Handel, Brahms, and other classical composers in her performances as well as hymns and gospel music. She composed one song that was published by Chuck Fulmore and recorded by his trio on one of their albums. The Heralds, a male quartet, would later include it on a country music album.

The Mortons had three children, Ginny (Frost), Jody (Smith), and Judy (Ehlert), all of whom had natural singing voices. They would often sing with their mother in public performances when they were in the upper elementary grades and academy. She also included them on some of the songs on two of her albums, one that included Judy and Jody and another with her and all three daughters. Ginny recently wrote, "It was not professional training that enabled my mother to reach the hearts of her listeners. Her mission in life was best exemplified by a song she used to sing, 'To Be Used of God.'"

Ginny also wrote more about the extent of her mother's ministry and of a miraculous healing she experienced in 1962:

She was sponsored by and gave programs on behalf of the Heritage Singers and Christian Record Braille Foundation at different times during her career. She was to have sung for the 1962 General Conference session in San Francisco, but a disease of her legs prevented that from happening. The physicians had decided that she would need to have her legs amputated as she had developed gangrene. There was a special prayer service held during the first Sabbath of the General Conference for her medical situation, and the Lord healed her legs. The gangrene left and she did not need any more medical attention for that particular condition again.

Morton performed four years later at the 1966 General Conference session in Detroit, Michigan. Her singing of Henry de Fluiter's "See the Day Now Breaking," the last song he composed, was included on a souvenir album of musical highlights from those meetings.

Her daughter Judy sang with the Heritage Singers, recording with them on two of their albums, and recorded a solo album as well. Jody also sang with the Heritage-New Creation and recorded with them as well. Neither of them sang professionally after they married.

Morton married Russell William Lackey in Cleburn, Texas, in June 1974. He died in October 1984. She would die less than three years later in February 1987at age 59, from pancreatic cancer.

ds/2012

Sources: Information provided by Ginny Morton Frost, September 2011 and January 2012; Chapel Record Liners; Columbia Union Visitor, 21 January 1971, 3; Adventist Review, 26 March 1998, 26.

 

Discography

Barbara Morton

Forward to Christ, Chapel Records LP1527, Brad Braley-organ, Aradel Bond-piano, Alfred Walters-violin

I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked, Chapel Records ST061, Mizelfelt Chorus & Orchestra, James Coday-tenor, Frederic Bacon-Shone-piano, Alfred Walters-violin

Songs for the Heart, Chapel Records LP135, Ginny Morton, Judy Morton, Jody Morton, Lois Hall-organ, Robert Morris & Patrick Higgins-guitar

Songs of the Savior, Mary Jayne (producer), Kathryn Platz-organ, Gene Jennings-piano

Right Now, Chapel Records S5166, Paul Johnson Singers

To Be Used of God, Jimmy Rhodes (producer), OCR1070, Jimmy Rhodes-piano & organ

Remind Me, Jimmy Rhodes (producer), OCR1077, Jimmy Rhodes-piano & organ

How Much He Cares, Jimmy Rhodes (producer), Jimmy Rhodes-piano & organ

Springs of Living Water, Jimmy Rhodes (producer), RL105, Jimmy Rhodes-piano & organ

Portrait of Love, CFS3253, Judy Morton, Jody Morton-solos & duet, Ray Casey-orchestra, Ralph Sandburg-piano, Ted McIntyre-bass, Tor Lindor & Craig Gorton-guitar

Barbara Morton Sings, Jimmy Rhodes (producer), Jimmy Rhodes-piano & organ