Southern gospel matriarch Vestal Goodman dies in Florida.

ONE OF THE key figures in Southern gospel music, Vestal Goodman died on Saturday 27th December from complications of the flu. She was 74 years old. Born Vestal Freeman in the town of Fyffe, Alabama, Goodman had desired to study for the Metropolitan Opera at an early age, but her upbringing in church life led Goodman to shift her focus to gospel music. A chance meeting at a local tent revival introduced her to Howard Goodman and their union led to one of Southern gospel music's most successful vocal groups, the Happy Goodman Family. In a music career that spanned over five decades, Goodman became one of the most revered and honoured singers in her genre. As part of the Happy Goodman Family, she was one of the founding members of the Gospel Music Association (GMA) and had recently been informed that she was going to be inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in the spring of 2004. The Happy Goodmans were inducted into the GMA Hall of Fame in 1998.

Goodman was spending Christmas with her family in Florida when she passed away. She was preceded in death by her husband of 53 years, Howard Goodman, who passed away in November of 2002. Goodman is survived by her son Rick, daughter Vicki, four grandchildren and three great-granddaughters. CR

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