Thomas Marshall Kelly
T. Marshall Kelly, a bass-baritone singer and composer, has enjoyed a career as an internationally known soloist, ordained minister, radio personality, and award-winning religion teacher in the Seventh-day Adventist church. From his earliest years, religion and music have been focal points in his life.
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Marshall, the only child of Louis and Mary Kelly, began singing in a male quartet at age twelve. He attended Oakwood Academy and College, now University, where he sang in the OC male chorus and in its popular male quartet, the Velvetones, before transferring to Emmanuel Missionary College, now Andrews University, in the early 1950s to earn an accredited four-year degree.
Kelly gained recognition for the resonant quality of his voice while at EMC and was a charter member of the Collegians, a newly formed select choral group conducted by Melvin Davis. In his senior year, he served as pastor of his class and was a featured soloist in the college orchestra's April "pops" concert, at which he sang four solos.
Following graduation from EMC in 1952 with a degree in religion, Kelly became a pastor in Chicago, and in December 1952, married Garnet Jean Garland from Cleveland, Ohio.a graduate of Pine Forge Academy in Pennsylvania. They would have a son, Eric, and a daughter, Nadine.
In the next 25 years, Kelly would serve in the Lake Region Conference, pastoring at Fort Wayne, Marion, and Muncie, Indiana; Inkster, Michigan; Chicago again; and in the Burns Avenue Church in Detroit. During those years he enjoyed great success as a pastor and evangelist and as a sought-after singer.
A highlight of those years was his assisting E. E. Cleveland, legendary preacher and evangelist, with the music in a nearly two-month long evangelistic crusade in Australia in 1971. Hundreds were converted by their efforts through the power of Cleveland's persuasive speaking and Kelly's deeply-felt singing. Cleveland observed at that time, "The rich velvet voice of T. Marshall Kelly was an indispensable blessing to the success of the campaign. He was accorded the supreme tribute of being rated as a 'second Paul Robeson.' "
In the following year, both men worked together again in another two-month successful crusade in Detroit. During the early years of this decade, Kelly also made two records, All That Thrills My Soul and It Takes Everything to Serve the Lord, which were released by Chapel Records.
In 1976 when the Australians planned a huge youth rally, they invited Kelly to return to speak and sing because they had been so taken with his voice during his earlier visit to that continent. While there, he gave a concert in the recently completed Sydney Opera House. He later talked about that experience:
During my first visit to Australia, Elder Cleveland and I were on a tour boat in the Sydney harbor where we could see them constructing the new music hall. Inwardly I was thinking how nice it would be to sing there some day as a witness for the Lord. On my return trip to Australia, I had barely arrived when I was surprised to see a Billboard with my picture on it advertising that I would be singing a concert in the Sydney Opera House.
The orchestra conductor had made orchestral accompaniments for some of the songs that I had composed and sung on my previous trip, unbeknownst to me. Since I had been delayed in leaving the U.S. we had only one rehearsal and I had never sung with a live orchestra before, yet the Lord helped me in this new experience. Before the concert I was in a dressing room quite unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I asked to be alone and then spent some time with the Lord, waiting for them to call me to come out. I really prayed like I had never prayed before, "Lord, If I am going out to put on a show for myself, take that out of me. May I go out there and testify for You."
As I normally do, I would sing a song and then say a few words. I did the same thing there and the Lord answered my prayer, the desire of my heart. I will always be grateful to Him for that experience and treasure the memory of that night and the opportunity He provided.
It was at this time that Kelly was invited by Calvin Rock, president of Oakwood College, and Nathaniel G. Higgs, new principal at Oakwood College Academy, to join him in helping raise the spiritual tone at the school. Kelly established a strong Bible program and with Higgs led out in a number of activities, including Agape suppers, student weeks of prayer, youth days, and community outreach activities such as suppers for senior citizens, which united and inspired the students to a renewed spiritual commitment. He received a Zapara Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1990 for his work as a teacher, counselor, and campus chaplain at the academy.
Kelly continued to sing and speak while teaching at the academy, giving numerous benefit concerts and presenting programs at churches and schools. In the 1980 General Conference session, he was a featured singer and in 1991 he again assisted E. E. Cleveland with music along with other noted Adventist musicians in another crusade, this time in Nashville. Six years later, he assisted in campaigns held in South Africa and has since participated in Voice of Prophecy Family Reunion Concerts and Maranatha 2000! and been a speaker and singer on 3ABN.
Kelly retired in 1995 and now lives in Huntsville, Alabama. He continues to be a featured singer and speaker at church events and gatherings. For over thirty years he has had a Sabbath afternoon radio talk show program at 5 p.m. on what is now WJOU, 90.1 FM. He has also released other recordings, including a recent CD, For Your Encouragement. He is presently preparing another CD, Hymns for Him, for future release.
Sources: Interview, 2009; Numerous articles in the Review and Herald, Lake Union Herald, Columbia Union Visitor, and Southern Tidings and Record Liners. Primary references from listed publications are as follows: Lake Union Herald, 7 October 1952, 8 April 1952, 5 March 1953, 23 May 1972, 10 August 1976 (Cleveland Quote); Columbia Union Visitor, 23 July 1953; Review and Herald, 25 December 1973, 22 April 1976, 20 April 1980, 12 June 1997; Southern Tidings, September 1983, February 1990, February 1991, November 1998, July 2001, December 2004; Southern Tidings, March 2013, 34..