Saturday, July 25, 2015

Hymns & Hymn Writers: Can He Depend On You by David R. Kenney

There are incidents in our nation’s history that make for very sad reading.  As I was in Wall Drug, SD, I noticed a map of our Nation but it had Indian tribes distributed throughout it.  I also noticed on the roadmap, as we traveled, when we were in and out of Indian Reservations.  My mind thought about an earlier time.  The family from which the writer of this hymn came from was of the Choctaw Indians.  The creator of this hymn’s grandfather, Thomas Bacon, would have been about 20 years of age during the “Trail of Tears” when the U. S. Government forced five tribes of Indians off their land and onto the reservation in Oklahoma with the Indian Removal Act of 1830.  Those wishing to become citizens of the United States could remain; otherwise they were forced to relocate.  The term “Trail of Tears” originated from the Choctaw Indians which were the first to be forced to move. They moved from southeast Mississippi to southeast Oklahoma.  Some state that the “tears” were from those who witnessed the forced relocation and not the tears of the Indians themselves who marched in silence.  The Choctaw Indians served as code talkers for the United States in World War I and World War 2.  Their language was so complex that the enemy could not break their code.  There were several Indian code talkers who helped our nation in war including Choctaw, Comanche, Cherokee, Seminole and others.
Wilkin B. Bacon (1908-1981), Lyricist & Composer
The Bacons were a part of the Choctaw Indians of Oklahoma during the period.  Wilkin’s father’s name was Colton Bacon and is listed in the 1885 census of the Choctaw Nation.  Wilkin was born in Talihina, Oklahoma on April 27, 1908.  His name appears in the U. S. Census in 1910 for the first time so apparently his family decided to become U. S. citizens.  Wilkin was affectionately known as “Big Chief” to those who knew and admired him.  On May 23, 1931, he married a school teacher by the name of Mary Sue Painter.  They had a daughter, Linda Bacon Campbell.
He was a member of the church being baptized by Burton Coffman in 1937 in Sherman, TX.  He studied music and was an accomplished quartet singer being a member of the Lone Star Quartet which was sponsored by the Stamps-Baxter Music Company.  Some reports state that he wrote as many as 10 songs, but “Can He Depend On You” is the one that has remained popular. Bacon completed this song in 1943.  Some think that the song came out of a period of his life when he was conflicted.  His singing career was taking off, but he was concerned about the traveling taking him away from his family and keeping him from serving the Lord.    Apparently in 1945 the crisis came to a head, and he left this career to preach the gospel full time and lead congregational singing.  He preached in Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma.  He also worked with Lloyd O. Sanderson, Paul H. Epps, Palmer Wheeler and others.  There are various newspaper reports of him leading singing for gospel meetings and he was advertised sometimes as a Choctaw Indian.  There is a newspaper advertisement in The Tulia Herald of Tulia, Texas on August 11, 1955, of him and Paul Epps conducting a Music School from August 15 – 26, Monday through Friday with day and night sessions.  Sessions were from 9 AM – 11 AM, 1 PM – 3 PM, 8 PM – 9:30 PM.  Classes taught included Rudiments, Note Reading, Harmony, Song Directing, Music Appreciation, and Vocal Exercises.  There were classes for all ages and no tuition charge for attending.  He did some quartet singing with the Gospel Hour Quartet for the International Gospel Hour during the days of V. E. Howard.
Wilkin B. Bacon died on October 9, 1981 in Talihina, Oklahoma where he was born. His funeral was on October 12 in the church where he served until his retirement.  His funeral was conducted by Cecil Lanning, Haskell England, and V. E. Howard.  His wife passed away in 2011 at the age of 103 years of age.  They are buried in Old Talihina Cemetery in Talihina, Oklahoma.
Can He Depend On You? 
Dependability, we all want it, in fact, some demand it and become angry with words of “undependable” on their lips when some fail.  However, exactly how good are we at being dependable ourselves?  In Roy McConnell’s lecture on “Can He Depend On You” in Memphis School of Preaching Lectureship on Lesson In Lyrics, he lists some types of people on whom the Lord cannot depend:  stingy, bad attitude, fickle and self-righteous.  The Lord expects His children to be unselfish, faithful and obedient. 
This reminds me of a poem I have read “Not On Sunday Night” by Gus Nichols:
I love the church that Jesus built,
And I know that it is right;
I go every Sunday morn,
But not on Sunday night.
I love to sing the songs of God,
Such worship must be right;
This I do on Sunday morn,
But not on Sunday night.
And may God bless our preacher, too;
And give him power and might;
But put a sinner in my place,
I won’t be there Sunday night.
I love the hear the Gospel too,
It gives me pure delight.
I hear it every Sunday morn,
But not on Sunday night.
I’d go thru rain and sleet and snow,
Do anything that’s right
To be in church on Sunday morn,
But not on Sunday night.
I know I need more hope and strength
To keep me in the fight;
For help I come on Sunday morn,
But not on Sunday night.
Yes, we all must someday die;
I hope I’ll be doing right;
So I might die on Sunday morn,
And not on Sunday night.
While faithful attendance is something we all should strive for, what about our faithful work and service outside of worship services?  Can He depend on you?  The song points out the faithfulness of God and Jesus Christ to His children.  This faithfulness was demonstrated in His Son coming to the earth, dying upon the cross, resurrecting from the dead, and ascending to Heaven to prepare us a home.  All of this Jesus did in the face of cruel opposition climaxing in the most heinous forms of execution known to the world.  The words of the song include this piercing questions—“For us He died that for Him we might live, can he depend on you?  Can He depend on you, His blessed will to do?  Will you be crowned with the faithful and true, can He depend on you?”
Gus Nichols, “Not On Sunday Night,”
John P. Wiegand, Editor, Praise for the Lord, Nashville, TN:  Praise Press, 1997.
“Music School is Scheduled,” The Tulia Herald, Tulia, TX:  Vol. 49, No. 32, 11 August 1955, p. 1.
Roy McConnell, “Can He Depend On You?” Lessons in Lyrics, Memphis, TN:  Memphis School of Preaching, 1998, pp. 515-519.
V. E. Howard, Editor, and Broadus E. Smith, Associate Editor, Church Gospel Songs & Hymns, Texarkana, TX:  Central Printers & Publishers, 1983.
V. E. Howard, “Obituary for Wilkin Bacon,” Gospel Advocate, 19 November 1981, p. 695. 

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