Friday, January 29, 2016

William McKinley

U.S. President William McKinley, born today in 1843, served in office from 1897 until his assassination in 1901. He became a Methodist at age sixteen, and was known in later years for praying and reading the Bible daily.  He apparently considered ordination, and his mother believed that he would be a Methodist bishop some day.

McKinley remained close to his mother throughout her life, and when she became ill in 1897 he had a direct telegraph wire installed between her home and the White House so that he could receive frequent updates on her condition.  When he learned that she was near death, he wired back "Tell Mother I'll be there."  He traveled to Canton, Ohio by train and was at her side when she died on December 12, 1897.

The story spread through the news media and "Tell Mother I'll be there" became a well-known phrase in its day.  Gospel song writer Charles M. Fillmore was inspired to write today's song from the President's words, changing the context a bit.

When I was but a little child, how well I recollect
How I would grieve my mother with my folly and neglect;
And now that she has gone to heav’n I miss her tender care:
O Savior, tell my mother, I’ll be there!

Tell mother I’ll be there, in answer to her prayer;
This message, bless├Ęd Savior, to her bear!
Tell mother I’ll be there, heav’n’s joys with her to share;
Yes, tell my darling mother I’ll be there.

Though I was often wayward, she was always kind and good;
So patient, gentle, loving when I acted rough and rude;
My childhood griefs and trials she would gladly with me share:
O Savior, tell my mother, I’ll be there!

One day a message came to me, it bade me quickly come
If I would see my mother, ere the Savior took her home;
I promised her, before she died, for heaven to prepare:
O Savior, tell my mother, I’ll be there!

Text and Tune: Charles M. Fillmore, 1898
TELL MOTHER I'LL BE THERE (Irregular with refrain)

McKinley only survived his mother by a few years and was murdered by the anarchist Leon Czolgosz six months into his second term of office.  He lived just over a week after being shot, and his last words were reportedly "Nearer, my God to thee, Nearer to thee..."

Following his death, his favorite hymns were widely reported: Nearer, my God to thee and Lead, kindly light, and both were sung during the funeral services at the Capitol and elsewhere.  Enterprising music publishers released the sheet music to these hymns, as seen below.

Four Years Ago: O God, to us show mercy

No comments: