Friends, family say farewell to Ol' Man River singer - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Friends, family say farewell to Ol' Man River singer

Thursday, people from across Memphis bid a final farewell to the man who made Ol' Man River a masterpiece in May, James Hyter. Thursday, people from across Memphis bid a final farewell to the man who made Ol' Man River a masterpiece in May, James Hyter.
James Hyter sings Ol' Man River at a Sunset Symphony in the 1990's. James Hyter sings Ol' Man River at a Sunset Symphony in the 1990's.

By Anna Marie Hartman - bio | email | Follow us on Twitter

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Thursday, people from across Memphis bid a final farewell to the man who made Ol' Man River a masterpiece in May, James Hyter.

To his family and friends, James Alfred Hyter was much more than a powerful baritone.  At a memorial service Thursday morning, Hyter was remembered as a symbol of kindness, dignity and inspiration.

"Mr. Hyter will always be remembered in the fabric and the history of this great city," Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton said.

Most Memphians knew Hyter as Ol' Man River.  His voice became synonymous with the Memphis in May Sunset Symphony.  For 20 years, he performed encore upon encore of the Jerome Kern classic on the banks of the Mighty Mississippi. 

"Just remember the beat the beat of life, the beat of courage, the beat of dignity that Mr. Hyter left for us all," Shelby County Mayor AC Wharton said.

Hyter performed with the Memphis Symphony chorus and countless other ensembles.  At his funeral choirs joined forces to honor Hyter's life and legacy.

"He was kind to me," Rep. Steve Cohen said. "He was a special human being, and we will all miss him."

But the song 'Ol' Man River' was not on the funeral program, because friends felt no one else could do it justice.

Hyter's family requested that memorial donations be sent to the James Hyter Vocal Music Scholarship fund at the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis.  The fund provides educational opportunities to needy vocally talented students in the Mid-South.

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