Droves of people gathered at the Paramount Theater in Oakland on July 27 to pay their respects to fallen gospel legend Walter Hawkins.
The televised funeral service featured a variety of performances from a who’s who in gospel including singers Yolanda Adams, Donnie McClurkin, Mary Mary, and Hawkins’ former wife, Tramaine Hawkins. Singers BeBe Winans and Ledisi also were included in the lineup among a host of many other performers.
“Bishop Hawkins and the Hawkins family, was our inspiration,” Winans said at the funeral, according to Oakland’s KTVU News. “My entire family, the Winans’, we wanted to be the Hawkins. And so when we sat and watched television, whenever they came to Detroit for concerts, we were there in awe. And we said to ourselves, ‘if they can do it, we can do it.’”
The following day, Bishop Kenneth Moales offered the eulogy in which he named Hawkins’ only son, Jamie Hawkins as the successor to the Love Center–his father’s church that was founded in 1972.
The event drew over 4,000 attendees combining people who had never met Hawkins with a host of celebrities including the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Bishop Carlton Peterson.
President Barack Obama was not in attendance at the funeral, but issued a letter that was read at the ceremony.
“Bishop Hawkins touched countless lives, and he will be sorely missed by all who knew and loved,” Obama’s letter read.
“This is exactly what the pastor wanted,” Lynette Hawkins’ husband, Reginald Stephens told KTVU. “He spoke to his family that he wanted a jubilant celebration. He didn’t want it to be sad.”
Hawkins had been working on an upcoming album entitled Love Alive VI when he succumbed to pancreatic cancer on July 11.
Hawkins and his group, the Love Gospel Choir had a string of successes that began in the ‘70s and lasted throughout the ‘90s. His most recognized Love Alive album series received critical acclaim and the fourth installment of the series went to number one on the Billboard Gospel Album charts in 1990.
In 1981, he received a Grammy Award for the Best Gospel Performance for his song “The Lord’s Prayer.”