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ACU Remembers: Dr. Forrest McCann

By on November 23, 2020 in ACU Remembers with 5 Comments

Dr. Forrest Mason McCann, professor emeritus of English and an esteemed historian in church hymnology, died Nov. 23, 2020, in Abilene, Texas at age 89.

A graveside service will be held at the Lometa (Texas) City Cemetery at 11 a.m. Nov. 25, 2020, under the direction of Piersall Funeral Directors (733 Butternut, Abilene, Texas 79602).

McCann was born Oct. 12, 1931, in Lometa and graduated from Florida Christian High School in Tampa in 1948. He married Clara Lugenia Moore (’77) on June 10, 1952, in Gainesville, Florida.

He earned an A.A. degree from Florida Christian College (1950), a B.A. degree (1952) and M.A. in Spanish and English (1966) – both from the University of Florida – and a Ph.D. from Texas Tech University (1980).

McCann served as a full-time minister in Florida congregations in Plant City, Cedar Key, Gainesville and Lake Butler, and in Mount Pleasant, Tennessee. He taught Spanish and English at Union County (Florida) High School from 1965-68 before joining the ACU English faculty in 1968 as an assistant professor.

Forrest McCannHe became associate professor in 1976, professor in 1986 and retired in 1996 as professor emeritus. He coordinated ACU’s English as a Second Language program and received the Faculty Senate Award in 1996. He also served as a text consultant for the Abilene ISD and Abilene Christian Schools.

McCann was known widely as an expert on church hymnology. He served as editor of the last two versions of Elmer Leon Jorgenson’s Great Songs of the Church, the longest-lived hymnal in the Stone-Campbell branch of the American Restoration Movement. In 1986, ACU Press published – with McCann as editor in chief and Dr. Jack Boyd as music editor – Great Songs of the Church, Revised, the first total remake of Jorgenson’s project since it was created in 1921.

In 1997, McCann authored Hymns and History: An Annotated Survey of Sources, a 600-page reference book on Restoration Movement hymnody and facts about every title, tune, composer and author in Great Songs.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Dewey Forrest McCann and Jean Olive Salyer; and a brother, George Aubra McCann.

Among survivors are Clara, his wife of 68 years: sons David McCann (’79) and his wife, Lesa (Bolen ’79), and John McCann (’80); a daughter, Carol Jeananne McCann (’81), of Abilene; and grandchildren Forrest Ryan McCann, Shelly Kathryn (McCann ’15) Allison, Molly McCann and Mason McCann.

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  1. Forrest was a marvelous unending fountain of information concerning both the music and the texts of hundreds of hymns. Of course, he considered anything written or composed after about 1845 to be a tad suspect. Those Johnny-come-latelies like Stephen Foster or Fanny J. Crosby were just not hewing to the ancient paths of church music. My own theory ran to the idea that a pencil had both a point and an eraser, and I could use both to “improve” any text or tune. Dozens of times he would frown at my musical or literary surgery, but his native kindness always overcame his startled good taste and he merely smiled, nodded, and said “Well, we can certainly take that into consideration.” Everyone should understand that any acknowledgment of the high quality and astounding breadth of styles of both words and music in GREAT SONGS OF THE CHURCH REVISED should be laid at Forrest’s feet. Rest In Peace, dear friend of half a century. Your excellent work will stay with our churches for many, many years.

  2. Avatar David Harp says:

    I was privileged to have a class on the origins of English with Dr. McCann. It gave me a lifelong interest the origins of our language. I roomed with Forrest’s son David in the apartment behind the McCann’s house and got know him outside the classroom. He may not have been rich in this world but his treasure is heaped high in heaven.

  3. Avatar Don Bedichek says:

    I value the time I spent with Forrest às a teacher, colleague, and friend. A fine example of all three.

  4. Avatar Joel Greene says:

    An amazing man. His life, enduring faith, and guidance was an inspiration to many youngsters my age in the 1960s and 1970s.

  5. Avatar Sandy Shults Turner says:

    Dr. McCann was one of my favorite English Professors. He was kind and genuine to each student. I remember how he would turn his head and laugh.
    He was a wonderful Christian influence to me.

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