Co-Lin grad writes song for Memorial Day

Published 5:00 am Monday, June 13, 2005

A Louisiana politician and farmer with extensive family ties toBrookhaven may find his name forever tied to Memorial Day afterbeing credited with producing the first recorded song writtenexpressly for the holiday.

Tony Mullins, a three-term alderman in Serepta, La., revealed avideo for the song he wrote a year ago during a Memorial Daycelebration in Waterloo, New York, which is nationally recognizedas the birthplace of the holiday. The video was assembled byMullins and Dave Duprey, a Waterloo trustee and co-chair of theannual Memorial Day observance.

Mullins said he was unprepared for the attention “Memorial Day”would garner when he sent the village a copy of the song. It hassince been featured by many media organizations in the North.

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The attention has led Mullins to begin negotiations in Nashvilleto have the song professionally recorded. The copy used in Waterloowas essentially a demo, Mullins said.

Duprey said the attention is understandable because of itsmoving lyrics.

“It gave me goosebumps,” he said of the first time he heard thesong.

Duprey contacted Mullins to ask if the song could be used intheir Celebrate/Commemorate event on Memorial Day and Mullinsagreed. Soon, Mullins had agreed to come to Waterloo with hisfamily – wife, Carol; daughter, Beth, 19; and son, Adam, 16 – toparticipate in the festivities.

Duprey composed the video, using scenes of local veterans andMemorial Day events that illustrate the words to the song, in the27 days remaining before the event.

Mullins said he spoke to a crowd of about 150 people during theevent, but his prepared notes were tossed after he saw theirreaction to the song and video.

“I looked up in the stands and there were people crying andcheering,” he said. “I wrote the song because I have never heard aMemorial Day song. Not one.”

His speech turned into what the audience wanted – an opendiscussion about the song, his inspiration and, in a move thatshocked him, how people could obtain copies of it.

“I had a line wanting autographs. I’ve never had people want onebefore,” Mullins said. “Down here I’m just Coach Mullins, but upthere I’m signing autographs.”

Mullins, the son of Billy and Frances Mullins of Wesson, is a1979 graduate of Copiah-Lincoln Community College and a 1981graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi. He lived inMississippi for 21 years, but has spent the last 24 years teachingin Louisiana.

He said he began song writing about two years ago and haswritten about 30 songs. He was inspired to write “Memorial Day”when his church song leader, Mike Holley, asked him if he knew ofany songs they could use in their 2004 celebration of theholiday.

When he couldn’t name or locate any songs specifically about theholiday, Mullins said he thought about the annual trip to SereptaCemetery with his eleventh grade students, where they clean thecemetery and place flags on the graves of veterans.

Later, the song just came to him.

“Nobody believes that, but it’s the gospel truth. It just hitme,” he said.

Holley composed the gospel melody to the song and the NewSerepta Men’s Quartet sang it in the celebration that year. Mullinsand Holley collaborated on the fourth verse.

Musician Carey Rutledge of Virginia recorded the demo, but hadnever heard the quartet’s version of the song. He gave it a countryfeel.

“It transfers well to all musical genres,” Mullins said.

Since its debut at the birthplace of Memorial Day, Mullins said,he and Duprey have received numerous calls about the song,prompting him to contact Nashville to see if he could get itrecorded.

“They’re getting orders from everywhere,” he said. “A dollar ofeverything we sell goes to disabled veterans.”