Lister is proof that nothing is impossible if God is in it. Tone-deaf as a child, he worked hard and eventually became one of the greatest songwriters in the history of Southern Gospel music.
He was born Thomas Mosie Lister on September 8, 1921, in Cochran, Georgia, to Willis and Pearl Lister. His parents tried teaching him to sing, but discovered that he could not distinguish musical tones. Through studying piano, guitar and violin, he developed a musical ear. He went on to study music at the Vaughan School of Music in Tennessee, and after serving in the Navy during World War II, he studied English and music at Middle Georgia College. He sang with the Sunny South Quartet and was a founding member of both the Melody Masters and the Statesmen quartets.
In 1946, Lister met and married Wylene Whitten, and they moved to Atlanta, where they were blessed with twin daughters Brenda and Barbara. A bout with pneumonia left Lister’s throat damaged and he retired from singing, but continued to write and arrange hits for the Statesmen including “Goodbye, World, Goodbye,” “I’ll Leave It All Behind,” “I’m Bound for the Kingdom” and “Sunday Meetin’ Time.”
Lister formed the Mosie Lister Publishing Company in 1953 (which later merged into Lillenas Publishing). He was so busy writing and arranging that Wylene asked why he didn’t quit his day job and write music. Mosie had never heard of anyone who supported a family that way, but after a lot of prayer, he stepped out in faith and proceeded to quit his job.
It turned out to be a good decision. As of 2014, Lister’s songs catalogued more than 700 in number, including the popular tunes “I’m Feeling Fine,” “Then I Met the Master,” “How Long Has It Been,” “Till the Storm Passes By” and “While Ages Roll.” His music has been recorded by many artists and groups including the Statesmen, the Cathedrals, the Blackwoods, the Jordanaires, the LeFevres, the Booth Brothers, the Hoppers, Bill Gaither and the Gaither Vocal Band, George Beverly Shea, Porter Wagoner, Merle Haggard, Floyd Cramer and Loretta Lynn. The Dove Brothers released a project titled A Tribute to Mosie Lister in 2004, which Mosie produced.
Lister’s work and the unique sound of the Statesmen were also influential in Elvis Presley’s early career. He recorded three of Lister’s songs including the title track of his first gospel album, His Hand in Mine.
Mosie was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame Gospel Music Hall Of Fame in 1976 and into the Southern Gospel Music Association Hall Of Fame in 1997. And after three decades of working in the gospel music industry, he also became ordained as a Baptist minister.
Wylene Lister passed away in 2001 from cancer, a great loss to Mosie. After some time had passed, he married again, to Martha Hunter, the mother of Vicki Booth (wife of the Booth Brothers’ Michael). Besides his twin daughters and other family members, Lister is survived by several grandchildren.
Many members of the Homecoming family have shared their sentiments on social media, including the Booth Brothers, who wrote this on February 12:
"Our precious friend and mentor, Mosie Lister, went home to glory this morning at 9:07 AM CT. Mosie's songs are the bedrock of our music. We ask that you pray for the family at this time. We love you, Mosie. Till we meet again we will cherish the memories."
At the crossing of the Jordan
Why should I be afraid?
There'll be someone there who loves me
To guide me cross the river
To endless joys above!
Song: “At The Crossing”
Lyrics & Music by Mosie Lister