Robert Edwin Seamount
1919 - 1976
Robert (Bob) Seamount played an important role in the Voice of Prophecy radio broadcast, singing second tenor in the King's Heralds Quartet for nearly twenty years, from 1941 to 1961. Additionally, he had numerous gifts that benefited the broadcast in many ways and enabled him later, as a knowledgeable person in radio electronics and a licensed pilot and mechanic with several ratings, to become a key person in the development of Seventh-day Adventist aircraft ministry in the U.S. and South America.
Robert was born in Green River, Utah, on October 18, 1919, the second of three children and one of two sons of Edwin E. and Clara Mary Gibbs Seamount, workers in several SDA academies during his early years. By the time their son entered high school, they were working at Gem State Academy in Caldwell, Idaho. While at GSA, Robert became acquainted with Wayne Hooper, who shared his interests in music and sang with him in the choir and a male quartet. He also met Ellen Frances Venable, who arrived on campus to complete her senior year while he was a sophomore.
Following Ellen's graduation from academy in 1936, she attended La Sierra Junior College, now La Sierra University, drawn there by the word that she could earn her way by working at the Rusketts (a cereal) factory. Seamount and Hooper followed two years later. Both men participated in the band and sang in the choir and the Collegians, a male quartet. While Hooper pursued a program in music, Seamount specialized in electronics.
Robert and Ellen married on April 5, 1941, in North Hollywood, California. When Robert was invited by the VOP to join the King's Heralds Quartet in 1941, both he and his wife of five months were excited by this opportunity to work for the church. Their first assignment was to travel to Portland, Oregon, where they worked in an evangelistic meeting from September until just before Christmas. That fall, the VOP received word that it had been chosen by the church's Radio Commission in Washington, D.C., to be the national broadcast for the church.
That December, following the attack on Pearl Harbor on the 7th, the country was in turmoil. Emergency measures taken on the West coast, coupled with the rush by Richards and the quartet to get back to Southern California to prepare for their first national broadcast, scheduled for January 4, produced some harrowing moments. That first program was broadcast as scheduled on 89 stations. It received an overwhelming response and by the end of 1942 they were being heard on 225 stations.
Two years later when an opening in the quartet developed, Robert encouraged the staff to consider Hooper, who he thought would not only be perfect as a member but would, with his other musical talents, personality, and spirit, be an asset to the quartet. Later that year, George Greer, a noted Adventist college choir director, was also hired by the Radio Commission to coach the quartet with its singing and guide it in choosing music.
Greer's ideas and those of the quartet and Richards clashed, and in 1947, after several changes in personnel in the quartet, both Wayne and Robert left, Wayne to complete a music degree at Union College, and Robert to join another quartet that sang for The Quiet Hour, another California-based Adventist radio program.
In 1949 Wayne was invited to return to the VOP and form another quartet and choose its music. He accepted and immediately chose members for a new quartet, including Robert as second tenor. This quartet would sing together for the next twelve years and, with their blend of voices, extensive performance schedule, and numerous recordings, define the King's Heralds sound for millions.
Robert, whose voice was described by Bob Edwards as "a bright, lively Swedish tenor," was the first to leave this quartet in 1961.His wife recalls,
The last record made by this group, I believe, was a tribute to him and featured him as soloist. He continued with the VOP one year longer in the recording studio, then left in 1962, when he was invited by the Washington Conference to be a flying pastor for the San Juan Islands. He was ordained into the ministry on June 8, 1963.
His knowledge and creative use of electronics had led to the establishing of a state-of-the art recording studio for the VOP in the early 1950, when that technology was still in its infancy. His mechanical aptitude became a life-saver for the VOP entourage in the thousands of miles they traveled by car, when breakdowns would occur. Yet another gift, that of being a skilled pilot, facilitated travel by the quartet while he worked at the VOP as a quartet member, recording and broadcast engineer (after no longer singing in the quartet); then as minster.
While he had been at the VOP, Seamount had gained an instrument rating and a commercial flying license. Because of these qualifications and skill as an aircraft mechanic, he responded to an invitation in 1966 to serve as a pilot for the church's mission work in the Peruvian jungle for three years.
One of his duties was to provide service to 27 villages with 500 to 1200 foot landing strips, using special assists to facilitate shorter take-offs and landings. While serving in Peru, he baptized over 200 natives. After leaving Peru, he used his mechanical abilities, inventiveness, and knowledge to modify planes and prepare needed paperwork so that they could be certified and used in unusual mission situations in different countries.
When the Seamounts returned to the U.S. in 1969, they accepted a position in the Texas Conference, where he worked in radio, television, and public relations work for the next six years, using his flying skills as a pilot of a twin-engine plane. In 1972, he was invited to participate in developing General Conference policies for denominational aircraft and and later was chosen to be the aviation consultant for the GC. In this capacity he supervised the development and operation of a program for upgrading and checking of denomination pilots on a continuing basis.
The Seamounts moved to Florida in 1975, where he was to serve a special assistant to the administrator for development at Florida Hospital. Soon after their arrival, he was diagnosed with cancer and died from an inoperable brain tumor on February 10,1976, at age 56.
Those who worked with Seamount at the VOP admired the sweet lyric quality of his voice and his musical ability. They and those who subsequently worked with him enjoyed his sunny disposition and open, unassuming manner when interacting with everyone he met.
In 1979, the building in which the Andrews University College of Technology offers courses in airplane mechanics was named for him during a cermony honoring his work as a pioneer in missionary aviation. At that time, Ellen christened the 51st plane prepared for service in the Quiet Hour's outreach program.
Seamount's wife had returned to the Northwest to work as a secretary in the Oregon Conference office following his death. She married Raymond Hill and, following his death, was residing in Walla Walla, Washington, when she died on July 1, 2016, at age 98. She was survived by her son, Robert Edwin Seamount II; and daughters, Marie Roelle Seamount, and Karen Lynn Layton.
Sources: Information provided by Ellen Venable Seamount, 2005; Robert E. Edwards, H.M.S. Richards, Review and Herald Publishing, 202, 03, 10, 11, 18, 26-28, 81, 83, 84, 316; Robert E. Edwards, Hello America! 20 Years of Victory, Voice of Prophecy, 1961, 40, 43, 44, 47; Roy F. Cottrell, Forward in Faith, Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1945, 47-49.