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"W" is for Walker, William (1809-1875)

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“W” is for Walker, William (1809-1875). Teacher, composer, author. A native of Union District, Walker lived most of his life in Spartanburg. In 1835 he published Southern Harmony, a shaped-note hymnal using a four shape (fa-so-la) system. The shaped-note style is a simplified musical notation developed to make it easier for untrained congregations to sing in harmony without instrumental accompaniment. The publication contained some of Walker’s own compositions as well as older hymns and psalms in standard use at the time. Southern Harmony was immensely popular across the South, going through several editions and selling more than 600,000 copies. In addition to his publications, he traveled over the South conducting singing schools. When he signed his name, William Walker added the initials “A.S.H.” (“Author of Southern Harmony”), and he was affectionately known as “Singing Billy” Walker.

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Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.