For more than 40 years, 96.3 WHUR-FM broadcast Patrick Ellis's beloved and popular radio show Gospel Spirit Sunday mornings, filling the homes and cars of Washington, D.C., with the sound of church.
Each Sunday, Ellis chose music that would inspire, uplift and speak to his devoted listeners. And he filled the airwaves with their lives, too, sharing community and church announcements and marking birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions.
Patrick Ellis passed away July 16 from complications of the coronavirus. He was 77 years old.
Jacquie Gales Webb was a longtime colleague of Patrick Ellis at WHUR. She says Gospel Spirit was "everything that the faith community needed to hear as they prepared to go to their services."
"Over the 40 years, so many generations of not only African Americans, but all cultures within the Washington metropolitan area listened to Patrick Ellis and made listening to him their Sunday morning ritual," she says.
Listen to her remembrance in the audio player above, and we should note that Jacquie Gales Webb is the vice president of radio for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which provides some of NPR's funding.
SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:
We're going to take a moment now to remember someone we've lost to COVID-19.
(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "GOSPEL SPIRIT")
PATRICK ELLIS: Good morning. You're listening to "Gospel Spirit" with me, your host, Patrick Ellis.
MCCAMMON: For more than 40 years on Sunday mornings, 96.3 WHUR-FM, based at Howard University, broadcast Patrick Ellis's beloved and popular radio show. It filled homes and cars in Washington, D.C., with the sound of church.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LET THE CHURCH SAY AMEN")
UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) Let the church say amen.
ANDRAE CROUCH: (Singing) To what his plans are.
UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) Let the church say amen.
CROUCH: (Singing) To what his word says.
MCCAMMON: Each Sunday, Ellis chose music that would inspire, uplift and speak to his devoted listeners, and he filled the airwaves with their lives, too, sharing community and church announcements, marking birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions at no cost. Patrick Ellis passed away on July 16 from complications of the coronavirus. He was 77 years old.
Jacquie Gales Webb was a longtime colleague of Patrick Ellis at WHUR. We asked her to reflect on Ellis's contributions, beginning with the spirit of his Sunday broadcast.
JACQUIE GALES WEBB: It was everything that the faith community needed to hear as they prepared to go to their church services. Over the 40 years, so many generations of not only African Americans, but all cultures within the Washington metropolitan area, made listening to him their Sunday morning ritual. As WHUR likes to call him, a gentle giant, someone who really worked hard to serve his community - Patrick did a radio-thon to help expand and renovate a shelter in Prince George's County for women and their children fleeing from domestic violence. He also did an initiative that raised money to take care of babies left in hospitals during the crack cocaine epidemic. And he also fed the needy during Thanksgiving.
MCCAMMON: And we should mention that Patrick went to Howard. It was his alma mater, right?
GALES WEBB: As a matter of fact, WHUR studios are in the area that used to be known as Freedmen (ph) Hospital. And Freedmen...
GALES WEBB: ...Hospital was where Patrick was born.
MCCAMMON: He was literally born there.
GALES WEBB: That's right. That's right.
MCCAMMON: What was it about gospel music that he loved so much?
GALES WEBB: For Patrick, it was the feeling that came through gospel music. He would play music that touched him. He would play music that he knew touched his audience.
MCCAMMON: What were some of his favorite gospel songs?
GALES WEBB: I remember him telling me that he really liked the song by Morris Chapman called "I May Not Always Be There."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I MAY NOT ALWAYS BE THERE")
MORRIS CHAPMAN: (Singing) I may not always be there to listen or understand.
GALES WEBB: He really liked, believe it or not, and played almost every Sunday because people requested it a Michael Jackson song called "Gone Too Soon."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GONE TOO SOON")
MICHAEL JACKSON: (Singing) Like a comet blazing cross the evening sky, gone too soon.
GALES WEBB: Which is so ironic because that's pretty much how we're feeling at WHUR - just that Patrick is gone too soon.
MCCAMMON: What will you remember most about Mr. Ellis and his legacy?
GALES WEBB: He had renovated his summer home out in Churchton, Md., and the house had a observation deck that overlooks the bay. And in this observation deck is the state-of-the-art studio that he had constructed. And I know he planned to go on and do his program for many years to come, overlooking the bay. And he was able to do three programs, and then we learned that COVID-19 led him to his greater reward.
But I'm thankful that he was able to do those three programs and that he lived a wonderful life and that he knew that his listeners loved him. And that's what I'll remember - is his legacy of love, his legacy of caring so much about his community and his listeners and the love that they gave back to him.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STAY ON THE GOSPEL SIDE")
THE BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA: (Singing) Oh, while they stayed on the gospel side, I stayed on the gospel side.
MCCAMMON: That was Jacquie Gales Webb remembering her colleague at WHUR-FM, radio host Patrick Ellis, who died of complications from the coronavirus earlier this month. We should note that Jacquie Gales Webb is the vice president of radio for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which provides some of NPR's funding. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.