Rock 'n’ roll icon Little Richard laid to rest in Huntsville

Little Richard died this month after a battle with bone cancer.

Posted: May 20, 2020 12:12 PM
Updated: May 20, 2020 7:33 PM

Wednesday marked an important point in music history. Richard Wayne Penniman, better known as 'Little Richard,' was laid to rest at Oakwood Memorial Gardens.

"He was like my dad. He was like a dad to us all," said baritone sax player, Kenny Ford.

After a lifetime of performing to sold out crowds and influencing millions of people as 'Little Richard, Penniman was buried in a ceremony of just close friends and family.

"He also it rather it be a small crowd, like this, of his real people as opposed to just a big thing because everybody's trying to do their thing. He was always like that," said bass guitarist, Charles Glenn.

Band members, like James 'Big Jaye' Nelson said Penniman never fired any of his band over the many years he was performing.

"It was a way, a gesture of love to bring two... He didn't need it, but he brought it. He gave everybody a career. It was never a job, it was a career," said singer, James 'Big Jaye' Nelson.

Even with all his success, Penniman's life spanned far beyond his musical talent.

"Little Richard was known for his rock and roll, but he was also known for meeting the rock that don't roll and that's Jesus Christ," said Pastor James Owens.

That spirituality brought him to Huntsville to what was then Oakwood College back in the late 1950's. He brought what he learned here on the road with him to his shows.

"At his concerts, he gave away thousands of a little book called 'steps to Christ.' even when briefly returning to the secular scene, he still gave away copies of that book to thousands. Great singer, great witness," said Joseph McCoy who gave the eulogy.

"For one year, before going out on the evangelistic trail, we saluted him and now he has circled and come all the way back to Oakwood," said Dr. Leslie pollard, President, Oakwood University.

Many who knew him best described him as a shining light that has now gone out.

"Little Richard has left the building, he has left this earth and we are going to all miss him," said Glenn.

The City of Huntsville also presented his family with a declaration to honor the legend who will now remain a part of the Rocket City.

He died this month after a battle with bone cancer. He was 87. He's known for hit songs like “Tutti Frutti” and “Good Golly Miss Molly.”

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