One of the oldest Southern gospel conventions in the nation still meets every June in Benson.
Ninety years ago, folks first gathered for what would become the State Annual Singing Convention. It drew a crowd of about 200 people. The event was started in 1921 by Simon P. Honeycutt, who was married to the former Mary Ida Benson (the town was named for her father Alfred Benson). By its 25th anniversary, it was drawing crowds of more than 20,000 and was called "one of the outstanding singing events held in the South,"
In 1938, the program expanded to two days. The Four-County portion of the contest (Johnston, Harnett, Cumberland and Sampson) was won for the fourth time by the Tee's Chapel Choir. The choir, with nearly half of its membership made up of Woodalls, won in a "sing-off" tie with the Benson Choir. One more win would give the choir permanent possession of the winning "loving cup." (News coverage of the following year's sing shows them being presented the cup again.)
In 1949, the big news was that US Senator Frank Porter Graham would be making his first visit to "The Sing" to address the crowd "which came by every conceivable type of transportation."
Then standing in short sleeves and beaming all over with smiles, Senator Graham stepped to the front of the big platform and led the huge throng in singing a popular hymn called "When We All Get to Heaven."
The words of the popular old hymn rolled throughout the big crowd as the Senator waved his arms in directing it ...
"I really don't know how to sing very well," apologized the Senator, but his directing scored a tremendous hit with the crowds who earlier had applauded and praised his speech.
"This volunteer outporing [sic] of people devoted to religion and music in the songs of the people and the songs of the soul is wonderful," declared Senator Graham. "Everybody looks happy.
"This singing convention is a significant thing in the life of North Carolina," declared the former University president. -- The News & Observer 6/26/1949
This year's sing will take place June 24-26.