The Hemphills

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The Hemphills

(Gospel music group)

Born August 1, 1939

West Monroe, Louisiana
(Joel Wesley Hemphill)
February 4, 1940
Flat Creek, Jefferson County, Alabama
(LaBreeska Rogers Hemphill)

Died December 9, 2015
Nashville, Tennessee

(LaBreeska Hemphill)

The Hemphills were a family gospel music group active in mostly the American South from 1968 to 1990. The group resurfaced in 1998 as a husband-and-wife duo.


The group was founded in Bastrop in Morehouse Parish, Louisiana, by the Pentecostal pastor Joel Wesley Hemphill, Sr. (born August 1, 1939) and his Alabama-born wife, the former LaBreeska Rogers (1940-2015). Joel Hemphill is a native of West Monroe, Louisiana, and himself the son of a pastor, William Tillmon Hemphill (1892-1981), and the father's second wife, the former Beatrice Brown (1918-2008).[1]

Joel was the lead singer; LaBreeska sang alto. The couple wed in 1957 and relocated in 1972 to NashvilleTennessee, to be near the center of the country music industry. Their three children, Joel, Jr. (drums), Trent (bass and pianist), and Candy Hemphill Christmas (soprano), sang with the group until 1990, when all left to follow their own paths. There were also non-family member musicians employed for the band. In the early years, Tim McKeithen (baritone), a nephew of Joel Hemphill, and Tim's wife, Dixie (soprano), filled the spots prior to the arrival of the Hemphill children.[2] Tim and Dixie later formed their own group, The McKeithens.[3]


Before they went on tour, The Hemphills negotiated their first recording contract in 1966 as a duet with Canaan Records, a division of Word, then the largest gospel music company.[4] In time, they were particularly known for "Sweetest Words He Ever Said (I Forgive)", "I’ll Soon Be Gone", and "I Came On Business For The King."[2]

Having won eight Gospel Music Association Dove Awards, The Hemphills excelled on the music charts in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s,[4] with multiple albums under, first, Canaan Records, and then mostly the Heartwarming Records label. Their 1967 album is The Country-Gospel Style of The Hemphills. Later albums are Band of Light (1989) and Walking in the Light (2003). [3] A reviewer for The Washington Post described one of The Hemphills concerts held at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., accordingly: "Mrs. Hemphill has a powerful and convincing voice, and The Hemphills do not have one sit-still song in their repertoire.”[4]

LaBreeska Rogers Hemphill was born to Walter Erskine Rogers and the former Gussie Mae Goodman, later Gussie Rudd (1923-1990), in Flat Creek in populous Jefferson County near Birmingham, Alabama. She first sang at Ryman Auditorium in Nashville at the age of nine with her group, the Happy Goodman Family. Her uncle, Howard "Happy" Goodman (1921-2002), originated the family group[5] and had his own gospel singing group as well.[6] Young LaBreeska performed during a  monthly all-night gospel sing at the Ryman. As she progressed in her singing career, she became known for "I Claim The Blood," "Grandma's Rocking Chair," and "Unfinished Task".[4] 

In 2011, Joel and LaBreeska Hemphill were inducted into the Louisiana Delta Music Hall of Fame in Ferriday.[4]

Late in 2015, LaBreeksa Hemphill died at the age of seventy-five in Nashville, Tennessee, after a two-year struggle with brain cancer. She is interred at Hasley Cemetery in West Monroe, Louisiana.[4] 

Joel Hemphill in two books To God Be the Glory (2006) and Glory to God in the Highest (2010) espouses a non-Trinitarian doctrine that Jesus Christ is not God. Hemphill claims that Christians should not pray to Jesus, an act he calls idolatry. Instead, he calls the created Jesus a "new man manifested in a flesh-like body. He is not flesh as humans have flesh because he was not made of the earth. Jesus is some kind of phantom having a physical body, but he is not flesh as we know it. He claims God the Father (uncreated but pre-existing) is the only God, and Jesus was a non-human being created by the Father but is not God."[7]


  1. Verba Hemphill Spillers (Half sister of Joel Hemphill, Sr.). The Shreveport Times (September 19, 2013). Retrieved on May 16, 2016.
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Hemphills Artist Biography. Retrieved on May 17, 2016.
  3. 3.0 3.1 The Hemphills: History. Retrieved on May 16, 2016.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 LaBreeska Hemphill. The Monroe News-Star (December 13, 2015). Retrieved on May 16, 2016.
  5. LaBreeska Rogers Hemphill. Retrieved on May 16, 2016.
  6. Howard Goodman. Retrieved on May 16, 2016.
  7. Joel Hemphill Doctrine: Hemphillism Jesus is Not God. Retrieved on August 17, 2016.