Robert Lowry (hymn writer)

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Robert Lowry

Robert Lowry (March 12, 1826 – November 25, 1899) was an American professor of literature, a Baptist minister and composer of gospel hymns.


Lowry was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 12, 1826.

He studied theology at the University at Lewisburg (now Bucknell University) and on graduating, in 1854, became ordained as a Baptist minister. He had charge of churches in a number of places including the Bloomingdale Baptist Church in New York City; the Hanson Place Baptist Church in Brooklyn; and others in West Chester, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.[1]

He wrote a number of hymns with members of his congregations. At the Hanson Place Baptist Church he wrote songs with Annie Hawks, and he established a similar partnership with Fanny Crosby at Sixth Avenue Bible Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York City.

Among the churches he pastored in New Jersey was the Park Avenue Baptist Church. When the Park Avenue Church agreed to merge with the First Baptist church, Pastor Lowry agreed to resign in order to ensure the success of the merger. The merged church still exists as the First-Park Baptist Church in Plainfield, New Jersey.

In 1869 he returned to Lewisburg, Pennsylvania as a faculty member (having previously served as a professor of literature) and later went on to become its chancellor.

From 1880 until 1886 he was president of the New Jersey Baptist Sunday School Union.

Lowry was married with three sons and died in Plainfield, New Jersey on November 23, 1899. He is interred in Hillside Cemetery.


He is most remembered as a composer of gospel music and a hymn writer, and also worked as a music editor at the Biglow & Main Publishing Company. He was responsible for around 500 compositions, including "Nothing But the Blood," "Christ Arose" ("Low in the Grave He Lay") (words and music)," "Follow On" (with William O. Cushing), "Shall We Gather at the River?" and "How Can I Keep From Singing?". He also wrote the music and refrain for "Marching to Zion" (words by Isaac Watts).

Despite his success as a hymn writer, it was as a preacher that Lowry would have preferred to be recognised. He once stated: "Music, with me has been a side issue... I would rather preach a gospel sermon to an appreciative audience than write a hymn. I have always looked upon myself as a preacher and felt a sort of depreciation when I began to be known more as a composer."[2] However, it is as a hymn writer that he remains renowned.

Lowry was a member of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity and served as the second national president, preceded by Joseph B. Foraker, Governor of Ohio.[3]


A bronze plaque in the Plainfield, New Jersey was installed in 1911 to commemorate his dedication and service.[4] Original papers and hymns can be found at the church and also at the Plainfield Public Library.


Volumes he edited include:

  • Happy Voices (1865)
  • "Marching to Zion (1867)
  • Gospel Melodies (1868)
  • Bright Jewels (1869)
  • Pure Gold (1871)
  • Royal Diadem (1873)
  • Temple Anthems (1873)
  • Tidal Wave (1874)
  • Good as Gold (1880)
  • Our Glad Hosannas (1882)
  • Joyful Lays (1884)
  • Glad Refrain (1886)


  • Brackney, William H. A Genetic History of Baptist Thought: With Special Reference to Baptists in Britain and North America. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2004. 87.
  • Butterworth, Hezekiah. The Story of the Tunes. New york: American Tract Society (1890).
  • Burrage, Henry S. Baptist Hymn Writers and Their Hymns. Portland, Maine: Brown, Thurston & Co., 1888, pp. 428–434.[5]


  1. ^ Robert Lowry: 1826-1899, by Henry S. Burrage. Christian Biography Resources
  2. ^ Butterworth, The Story of the Tunes, p. 165.
  3. ^ Grand Catalogue of the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity: February 1, 1910, page 368
  4. ^ "Memorial to Dr. Lowry. Tablet Unveiled in Church of Which the Famous Hymn Writer Preached". New York Times. April 17, 1911. Retrieved 2015-03-19. A bronze memorial tablet to the late Rev. Dr. Robert Lowry, a gospel hymn writer, was unveiled to-night at the Park Avenue Baptist Church, of which he was pastor for many years. ...
  5. ^ [1]

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