CBS 42 Special Report: A very special moment with Alabama’s own Jimmy Carter

Blind Boys of Alabama singer Jimmy Carter poses at his home in Montgomery, Ala., Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008. The group returns to the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind in Talladega, Ala., on Friday, Feb. 29, for their first performance at the school in more than 60 years. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The Blind Boys of Alabama are a celebrated gospel group whose music transcends generations.

The legendary group has won five Grammys and a Lifetime Achievement Award.

CBS 42 got a special moment with Birmingham’s own Jimmy Carter, one of the two surviving members of the group. Carter shared the group’s inside story with Art Franklin.

85-year-old Carter reflected on the group’s humble beginnings more than seven decades ago at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind.

“We sang in the choir,” Carter said. “We sang in the male chorus and from that came the blind boys of Alabama.”

The singer says the famous name actually came later in the group’s journey. They were initially known as the Happy Land Jubilee Singers. Around the same time, another group of blind singers in Mississippi formed called the Jackson Harmoneers.

“This promoter in Newark New Jersey heard about these groups and so he devised a gimmick,” Carter explained. “[He] said we are going to have a battle of music between the Blind Boys of Alabama and the Blind Boys of Mississippi. He was the one that gave us the name.”

The Blind Boys of Mississippi won the battle, but Carter says the Blind Boys of Alabama won the war. Afterward, both groups kept their names.

Neither singing group saw each other as competitors.

Blind Boys of Alabama singer Jimmy Carter holds one of the group’s three Grammy’s at his home in Montgomery, Ala., Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008. The group returns to the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind in Talladega, Ala., on Friday, Feb. 29, in their first performance at the school in more than 60 years. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

“If one of the Blind Boys of Alabama couldn’t make a show, one of the Blind Boys of Mississippi would step right in and vice versa,” Carter said. “It was no enemy thing, it was a friendly rivalry.”

After winning multiple Grammys, Carter says the accolades were special moments he won’t forget.

“To be able to hold that Grammy and take a picture with it, and all that… it was something to behold. I’ll never forget that,” Carter said.

The Blind Boys of Alabama’s most recent performance here was in July at Freedom Fest in Hoover. In August the group is hitting the road to promote their upcoming release titled Almost Home.

Carter explained the meaning of the project’s title as, “It won’t be too long before we will be able to rest.”

The legendary singer says he now understands why he was born without sight.

“If I had been able to see, I probably wouldn’t be doing this,” Carter explained. “He knew that. This is what He wanted me to do, it’s what my calling is. That’s why I can’t see.”

Jimmy Carter says he plans to keep singing about the goodness of God until it’s time to rest.

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