Singer on Radio Church of God dies

The writer is founder of Giving & Sharing and director of the Bible Sabbath Association.

By Richard C. Nickels

GILLETTE, Wyo.--Claude V. Ellis (1911-1999), former singer on the Radio Church of God radio program, died Jan. 31 in Boise, Idaho. Mr. Ellis and his wife, Velma (Rogers), were married for 64 years.

When I first met Mr. Ellis in 1971, he was owner-operator of Twin Cities Ambulance Service in Nampa and Caldwell, Idaho. In 1998 I renewed my acquaintance with him at the Church of God (Seventh Day) Campmeeting in Meridian, Idaho. He was as sharp as ever. He had a sparkling personality, and was a kind gentleman.

Mr. Ellis pastored churches in Lodi, Calif.; Port Orchard, Wash.; and Marceline, Mo. Music was an integral part of his life and ministry. Having never learned to read music, he sang and played from the heart. Besides vocalizing, Mr. Ellis played the guitar, organ, piano, omnichord, electric keyboard and harmonica and directed choirs.

In 1934 Radio/Worldwide Church of God founder Herbert Armstrong aired a half-hour radio program every Sunday on radio station KORE, Eugene, Ore., from 10 to 10:30 a.m. This was part of the "Three Point Program" of Herbert and Loma Armstrong's tiny church in Eugene: (1) a half-hour Sunday radio program; (2) a new mimeograph machine to duplicate The Plain Truth, the first press run being 200-250 copies; and (3) personal public meetings.

For the first few months the radio-program format was a regular church service, hence Radio Church of God (which was originally the name of the program, not the name of a church). A young couple, Claude and Velma Ellis, sang a song.

Later, songs were presented by the Radio Church of God Quartet, composed of Mr. Ellis, Beverly Armstrong (the Armstrongs' daughter), Mrs. Armstrong and Alfred Freeze, with Mrs. Ellis at the piano.

After several years the format of the radio program was gradually altered to concentrate more on the message rather than music. However, as late as 1937 hymns from the Radio Church of God Quartet continued to be sung preceding the radio sermon by Mr. Armstrong.

In the spring of 1941 Mr. Armstrong began broadcasting from Hollywood, Calif., at 9:30 a.m. Sundays. Because the primary audience he wished to reach was nonchurchgoers, the name of the broadcast was changed from Radio Church of God to The World Tomorrow. (Until January 1968, when the name was changed to Worldwide Church of God, the organization behind the broadcast continued to be the Radio Church of God.)

Mr. Ellis's singing talents were no longer used by Mr. Armstrong. Sometime in the 1940s, Mr. Ellis, who continued with the Church of God (Seventh Day), apparently decided not to wholeheartedly support Mr. Armstrong.

Although Mr. Armstrong would later speak somewhat disparagingly of the simple and plain folk in Oregon who helped him get started, I never met one who was not sincere and down to earth.

Claude Ellis was still playing the organ for church services a month before his death at 87 years of age.

One of his favorite passages of Scripture was 1 Thessalonians 4:16: "For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first."

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