Push To Make 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot' State Gospel Song

Saturday, December 25th 2010, 6:41 pm
By: News 9

Tulsa World

OKLAHOMA CITY  -- A Tulsa lawmaker wants to make "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" the state's official gospel song.

Sen. Judy Eason McIntyre, D-Tulsa, said some board members of the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame made the suggestion.

"I decided that is a good idea," McIntyre said.

Senate Bill 73 says "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" was written and composed by Wallis Willis, a Choctaw freedman living in Indian Territory before 1862.

"I have heard that song all of my life and never knew it was written by someone in Oklahoma," McIntyre said.

She realizes the measure could generate controversy and that the Legislature has important issues to address.

"I am not married to this," McIntyre said. "I want this to happen but do not want this to be a center of controversy."

In the past, lawmakers have sparred over the state rock song and state vegetable.

In 2009, "Do You Realize?" by Oklahoma City band Flaming Lips was selected as the state rock song in an online contest. After the House killed the measure making the designation official because of a shirt that one of the band members wore to the Capitol, Gov. Brad Henry stepped in to sign an executive order.

In 2007, the watermelon was declared the state vegetable, even though some argued that it is really a fruit.

Sen. Richard Lerblance, D-Hartshorne, said that he enjoys singing and listening to "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" but has some reservations about declaring it the state gospel song.

"Where are we going to stop with naming everything someone can think of the official state whatever?" he said. "I respect Sen. McIntyre. She is a dear friend of mine. I think we have a whole lot more things on the agenda other than what our gospel song will be (for) the state."

Senate President Pro Tem-elect Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, said any lawmaker can file any legislation they want.

"We certainly will look at it," Bingman said.

But crafting a state budget will be a priority, he said.

"I hope we are not required to sing it as a body on the

floor," Bingman said. "We might do an injustice to that song."