Billy Graham Center

Interview with Helen R. Bott Lowery - Collection 268

[Note: What follows is a description of the documents in this collection which are available for use at BGC Archives in Wheaton, Illinois, USA. The actual documents are not, in most cases, available online, only this description of them. Nor are they available for sale or rent. Some or all of this collection can be borrowed through interlibrary loan. ]

Since we are migrating our website to a new platform, we will no longer be updating this earlier version our site. Please visit our Archon database for online guide descriptions. In early 2018, look for our new site, currently under construction, linked in the BGC Archives section on the Library and Archives page. (12/11/2017)

Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biography of Helen R. Bott Lowery

An Essay on the Contents of the Collection (Scope and Content)

List of Audio Tapes in This Collection (Location Records)


Audio file and written transcript for T1

Brief Description.

Interview of Lowery by Robert Shuster, March 26, 1984. Topics include discussion of Chicago Gospel Tabernacle, 1927-1930s, during Paul Rader's period as leader, music under Merrill Dunlop, Homer Rodeheaver, the food program, sermon topics, and mission rallies; also includes description of Tabernacle programs under Rader's successor, Clarence Erickson.

Collection 268 [March 10, 2011]
Lowery, Helen R. Bott; 1920-2011
Interview; 1984

Audio Tape


There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.


Helen R. Bott Lowery was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, September 23, 1920, one of four children of Stephen and Helen Bauer Bott. Her brother and sisters were Emile, Viola, and Frieda. Helen's parents were members of the Church of God, but attended Chicago Gospel Tabernacle in the late 1920s when they were living in Chicago. Helen attended Flower Technical High School, and after graduation spent one year at Midwestern Music College. Another year was spent at Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois, in the continuing education program.

Mrs. Lowery held a number of positions beginning with that of Assistant Manager of the lunchroom of Flower Technical High School between 1938-1940. She next worked with the American Leprosy Mission as a bookkeeper in the general office, 1940 to 1941. For the next four years she served as an operator for Illinois Bell Telephone Company.

After a period of years, she returned to work as Assistant Manager of the Churchill Hotel between 1957 and 1960. From 1960 to 1986 she was employed by H. B. Taylor Company as Office Manager in purchasing.

Mrs. Lowery was active in the Moody Memorial Church, Chicago, as a Sunday school teacher and regular soloist between 1945 and 1968. She also helped with the food services distribution and children's church at Chicago Gospel Tabernacle, then under the direction of Paul Rader. She also was a member of the choir and participated in the Heaven and Home Hour, a radio program sponsored by the Tabernacle. On radio station WMBI, she worked as an actress in Stories of Great Christians and sang in choral groups as a soloist between 1948 and 1956. She remained with the Tabernacle until Rader was replaced by Rev. Clarence H. Erickson.

Mrs. Lowery continued actively in churches as her family moved into different areas of the metropolitan Chicago area. She was secretary of the Sunday school at North Shore Baptist Church, 1972 to 1978. In 1986, Mrs. Lowery was a member of Christ Church, Oak Brook, Illinois, where she had attended since 1981. Mrs. Lowery's home in 1986 was in Westmont, Illinois. She passed away on February 12, 2011

Scope and Content

Helen Lowery was interviewed by Robert Shuster on March 26, 1984, at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois. The dates covered in the interview are between the late 1920s and 1940s. Time elapsed in minutes and seconds is recorded to the left of the topics discussed in the interview. The index is keyed to the cassette copy and not to the reel-to-reel original. There is sound interference on the tape after 22:49 on Side 2 and the interview becomes unintelligible after 24:32.

T1 - side 1 (Click to link to the transcript and audio file of this tape).
00:00 Introduction
00:15 Family's membership in Church of God, Chicago; visits to Chicago Gospel Tabernacle; emphasis on prophecy, world view of Christianity; eventual membership only at the Tabernacle
03:30 Influence of WMBI broadcasts in Tabernacle attendance; participation in music activities, youth work, Sunday school
04:45 Mother's listening to Back Home Hour, 1927-28
05:30 Content of programs; Lowery's solo work with choir
07:30 160-voice Tabernacle choir; oratorios performed
08:15 Singing Rader's music; performance of Passion Play; parents' roles
10:00 Skilled director from Zion Passion Play; live animals
10:45 Two-hour performance; baritone soloist, Raymond Koch; costuming
11:30 Period of ten-twelve years' performances
12:15 Parents, Helen and Stephen Bott; sister's work with Peter Deyneka; musical groups; name change of radio broadcasts
13:30 Content of Back Home Hour
14:30 Lack of memories of Breakfast Brigade
14:45 Rader's personality, preaching abilities and ability to inspire personal involvement with world salvation
15:45 Use of anecdotes; prophecy, Second Coming, rapture, tribulation emphasized
17:30 Relevancy of preaching emphasis to contemporary situation; sense of urgency conveyed
18:15 Personal memories of Rader; sitting on wooden benches in the Tabernacle
20:00 Congregational involvement with singing; Homer Rodeheaver's leadership and trombone
21:45 Applause
22:30 Tabernacle capacity about three thousand, often filled; services in winter and stoking furnace for warmth
23:15 Types of Tabernacle members; missionary rallies
24:45 Contents and length of services; altar calls; work in cafeteria and evening services
26:45 Appeal of missionary reports; Rader's ability to inspire responses to support missions; transmitter to be sent to HCJB and naming of the station (Heralding Christ Jesus' Blessing); Howard and Clarence Jones
29:15 Scarcity of black members, but all welcomed
30:00 Food program
30:30 Father's training as painter-decorator; no work because of Depression and involvement with canning program; herring, pork, bread, fruits, and vegetables for program
33:00 Lines of people needing food
33:30 Criticism of Rader for this program
34:30 Her family's work at the Tabernacle; poverty at home
35:00 Clothing collections for Tabernacle distribution
35:30 Individuals involved in the programs; Lance Latham, Richard Oliver, Cliff Benson, Jimmy Nelson, Howard and Clarence Jones, Wes Hartzell, Charley White; choir members
37:45 Concerts, visiting other churches
38:30 Visit to black church
40:15 Norwegian church; need to turn down invitations because of conflict of Tabernacle service hours and days
41:00 Merrill Dunlop's leadership, personality; sister's role in Lowery's singing career; Dunlop's abilities as coach
43:45 End of tape

T1 - side 2
00:00 Recapitulation of previous side
03:00 Dunlop's recommendation of voice teacher; making records; rehearsals under Dunlop; Dunlop's gentleness, choice of fine music and effect for Tabernacle attendance
06:00 Pioneering use of music by Tabernacle; spontaneous music during service
08:30 Rader's use of prophecy, relation to modern-day Israel; Tabernacle's variation from traditional church liturgies
09:45 Estimate of influence of Tabernacle on Chicago
10:30 Lack of knowledge of Chicago political situation
11:00 Sermon topics primarily of challenge for mission work, prophecy
11:45 Use of World Wide Christian Courier; Bible studies; knocking on doors to propagate Christianity
13:30 Reactions from households to visitations
14:45 Summer camp; counselors, sleeping facilities, entertainment, hikes, classes; taking a boat to Muskegon; swimming lessons
18:00 Lack of personal memories of Rader's leaving; hearing prayers for his replacement, Clarence Erickson
18:45 Friendship of Erickson; Lowery's illness and Erickson's concern and taking her to hospital; his pastoral gift
21:00 Speculation about reasons for choosing Erickson as Tabernacle leader; abilities as businessman as contrasted to Rader's disinterest
22:00 Effects on Tabernacle attendance and program
22:45 Lance Latham's decision to form separate church; differenting views on youth programs between Erickson and Latham
23:30 Giving up afternoon services; return to Sunday morning Sunday school and services; changes in membership requirements
24:30 Slowly diminishing attendance (from this point the interview is no longer intelligible because of voice interference)


This tape of this interview was received at the Center in March 1984.

Accession 84-44
May 16, 1986
Frances L. Brocker
J. Nasgowitz

Accession 84-44
Type of material: Audio Tapes

The following items are located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE:

T1 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 speed, about 68 minutes on one side only. Interview of Helen Lowery by Robert Shuster, March 26, 1984. Topics include Lowery's experiences as a member and singer for Chicago Gospel Tabernacle, late 1920s-1930s. Includes discussion of Paul Rader's leadership, Merrill Dunlop, and Clarence Erickson.

Send us a message

Return to BGC Archives Home Page
Last Revised: 9/09/02
Expiration: indefinite