Mary Inez Lang Booth
1913 - 2010
Inez Booth, first full-time music teacher at Oakwood College, now University, worked there for 43 years, a record in service at one school unequalled by any other music teacher at any Adventist college or university. For 29 years she chaired the department, the longest tenure of any music chair at OC during its more than 100 years.
Booth, born in Mobile, Alabama, spent most of her childhood in Santa Barbara, California. A year after she was born, her mother died. After her father remarried, the family moved to the West Coast when she was eight, and Inez started piano lessons. Her father, an amateur musician, was an accomplished pianist and encouraged her music study.
Although they were Methodists, one of the family's friends, the only black Adventist in Santa Barbara, encouraged her parents to send Inez to Pacific Union College. She enrolled in 1933 and majored in music, intent on becoming a music teacher. During her third year at PUC, she joined the Adventist church. After completing her degree in 1937, she spent two years in San Francisco, where she stayed in the home of a Methodist minister and his wife and served as organist in their church.
During her second year there, she applied for a teaching position at several schools, including Oakwood College. She received responses from several and invitations to interview. Following her interview at OC, the president of the college offered her a position. Her friends encouraged her to seriously consider going to OC, observing that "everything grows" and the school would likely do the same.
Although she spent her first year at OC teaching in the grade school, Booth was hired to teach music at OC at the end of that year, replacing Otis B. Edwards, who had been teaching both music and history. While in her earliest years in the department, Booth taught and played both piano and organ, organ was her primary instrument. She completed a master's degree at Columbia University in the 1950's with organ as her performance area. She was known for both her fine service playing and her accompanying, doing the latter for numerous choral productions.
Booth became chair of the music department in 1950, a position she held until 1967. Four years later, she returned to that position and led the program until her retirement 12 years later, at age 70. In her many years of chairing the department, Booth was known for her graciousness and ability to nurture young teachers, foster collegiality within the program, and run a united and productive department.
She had a passion for ministering to those who were in prison and each week visited jails in the Huntsville area. The inmates were in awe of her and were deeply affected by her care for them and her message of God's forgiveness. When she died, an article in The Huntsville Times by Paul Gattis praised her for her decades of service to the incarcerated and the community.
During those busy years at OC, she and her husband, Albert, a photographer, raised two daughters. She was residing near the college when she died, at age 97.
Sources: Interviews, 1, 16 October 2006; 1950s and 1960s Oakwood College Acorn yearbooks; Social Security Records; Benjamin Baker, "Jesus in Jail: The Ministry of Inez Booth," Black SDA History.org, October 2011; Paul Gattis, "Inez Booth made a lifetime out of reaching those in jail," The Huntsville Times, 14 August 2010.