Polly Lewis passes 

Polly Lewis Williamson Copsey passed away on Sunday, August 19, 2018, after a battle with the effects of Parkinson’s Disease and Lewy Body dementia for the past 16 years. She was 81 years of age. 

Born on January 23, 1937, in Lincolnton, Georgia, she was part of the Lewis Family, known as the First Family of Bluegrass Gospel music. 

Polly with her sisters, “Miggie” and Janis, joined family patriarch Roy “Pop” Lewis, who played bass, and brothers Wallace (guitar), Talmadge (mandolin and fiddle) and Roy M “Little Roy” (banjo) in 1951, when they switched to an all-Gospel act.  

Their first recordings were done in 1953 during a session held in the studio of radio station WJAT in Swainsboro, Georgia. These were not released until 1957. 

Subsequently, they did another four sides; He’s the Only One / Lights In The Valley (Sullivan 557, recorded and released in 1954) and Did You Do What The Lord Said To Do / Wait A Little Longer Please Jesus (Sullivan 558, 1954). 

In April of 1954 the record label’s owner, Hoyt Sullivan, sponsored the Lewis Family, getting them on WJBF, a television station in Augusta, Georgia. The program was broadcast live every Sunday from noon until 1:00 p.m. and continued, albeit with different sponsors, for the next 38 years. 

Initially, their personal appearances were around and about in their home state, with performances, typically, being at venues including school halls, civic centers, fairs, and churches.  

The Lewis Family were among the trend-setters as they took to the highways to perform far and wide, travelling initially in a 1948 GM Silverside bus. The acquisition made them one of the first bluegrass bands to use this form of transport. 

Throughout the years they performed in such prestigious venues as the Lincoln Center in New York City, New York; The Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC; and the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee. 

In February 1958 they began a 15-year association with Starday Records, the label releasing 19 LPs including compilations albums. This was followed by a 16-year relationship with Canaan Records, which was similarly prolific, producing over 20 albums. 

One of the songs most associated with Polly Lewis, the Randall Hylton/Wanda Dalton song Slippers with Wings appears on the LP Good Time Get Together (Canaan CAS-9861, released in May 1980). Enjoy the clarity of her voice. 

The Lewis Family’s recording career continued with the Riversong label (three LPs and five CDs released during the period 1986 to 1993), Benson (five CDs 1991 to 1995) and Thoroughbred (four CDs during the years 2002 to 2005 and two DVDs) and Daywind Records (four CDs released during the period 1996 to 2008 and a DVD, We Are Family, with performances by the Lewis Family, Jeff and Sheri Easter, and Easter Brothers; Daywind DAY 1550, released in 2008). 

Another of the Lewis Family favorites that featured Polly is Hallelujah Turnpike. 

Since 1999 the group’s recordings have won 11 Dove Awards for Best Bluegrass Song and /or Best Bluegrass Album. 

Other awards and honors bestowed on the family include the induction into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1992, a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003 presented by the digital magazine SGN Scoops, the induction into the Gospel Music Association’s Hall of Fame in 2005, four awards from SPBGMA, and two IBMA awards; a Distinguished Achievement Award in 2002 and induction into the Hall of Fame in 2006.  

Polly Lewis was a very significant and much-loved member of the perennial Lewis Family bluegrass Gospel group, contributing considerably to their success.    

She, herself, was inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2013. 

Polly stayed with the group until the Lewis Family officially retired in 2009. 

In this video Polly Lewis joins her daughter Sheri Easter and son-in-law Jeff singing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.

R.I.P. Polly Lewis

The family will receive friends on Monday, August 20th from 7:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. at Beggs Funeral Home in Lincolnton, Georgia.

Funeral services will be held on Tuesday, August 21, 2018 at 4:00 p.m. at Hephzibah Baptist Church in Lincolnton. Interment will follow in the church cemetery. 

Serving as pallbearers will be Keith Lewis, Joey Lewis, Stan Lewis, Mike Lewis, Lewis Phillips and Walker T. Norman. 

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to The Lewis Family Homeplace Restoration Fund, PO Box 160, Lincolnton, Georgia 30817. 

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.