W.F. Sessoms had a dream to keep Southern Gospel music alive, and even on his death bed, the Sampson County native asked for an annual tradition to continue for many years to come.
In 1915, Sessoms had an idea to start a county-wide sing, inviting several choirs to come out to the Baptist church in Clinton. The next year, the Methodist church opened their doors for the sing, and by the third year, the sing could no longer be accommodated at any of the local churches, and moved to the Sampson County Courthouse.
Now in its 101st year, the annual Sampson County Gospel Sing will be held Saturday, Sept. 22, at the Clinton Family Worship Center and feature multiple groups from Sampson and surrounding counties. Admission is free.
Doors for the event open at 5 p.m. with performance beginning at 5:30 p.m. with the Dixie Travelers. Other performances are Rapture Road Quartet at 6 p.m., The ViewMasters Quartet at 6:30 p.m., Cross Anchored Quartet at 7 p.m., the New Bethel Quartet at 7:30 p.m., His Voice at 8 p.m., Wesley Pritchard & Friends at 8:30 p.m. and prayer and closing at 9 p.m.
For the first 35 years of the sing, it was known as the Sampson County Courthouse Sing. During that time, the event was held at the courthouse every year except 1940, when there were renovations taking place, so the sing was moved to the community building.
The sing has been held every year for the last 102 years, with the exception of two years during the war. Throughout the years, the location of the sing has been changed to continue accommodating the larger crowds.
From 1960 until 1968, the sing was known as the Fleet Sessoms Sing and continued being held at the courthouse. In 1968, the sing was moved to the Roseboro-Salemburg gym, and back to the courthouse in 1969.
The 53rd sing was held at Clinton High School, but later moved because of the lack of air conditioning. The sing found a new home at the North Carolina Justice Academy campus, outdoors, before being relocated again.
Wanting to return the sing to its hometown, the Clinton-Sampson Agri-Civic Center became the new home, allowing for large crowds, a cooler environment and a kitchen to offer light food and refreshments. In 2002, the event also changed from a two-day event to one and is moved from April to the fourth Saturday in September each year.