GEORGIA: Lifelong Episcopalian and musician Johnny Mercer honored

November 23, 2009

The city of Savannah celebrated what would have been lifelong Episcopalian Johnny Mercer's 100th birthday Nov. 18 with the unveiling of a life-size bronze statue of Mercer in Ellis Square. The Rev. Michael S. White, rector of Christ Church Episcopal, offered the invocation. Mercer was born in Savannah in 1909. He died in 1976. Mercer was an active member of Christ Church Episcopal and particularly enjoyed singing in the choir, according to his family. "Uncle Johnny loved this church with all his heart, and he loved being an Episcopalian," said Nancy Mercer Gerard, a member of Christ Church Episcopal and Mercer's niece. "The Episcopal Church was for him -- as it is for all of us -- a place where there is a depth of spirituality and a common desire to serve God and God’s world with grace and dignity." After graduating from high school, Mercer moved to New York to pursue an acting and songwriting career. In 1938, he moved to Hollywood and was later nominated for his first Academy Award for Best Song for "Jeepers Creepers." He would go on to win four Academy Awards for: "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Sante Fe," "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening," "Moon River" and "Days of Wine and Roses." Mercer's other accomplishments in the first half of the century included co-founding Capitol Records, where he also served as the first president. He often made movie and television appearances and worked with the likes of Bobby Darin, Henry Mancini and Hoagy Carmichael. Upon his death on June 25, 1976, Mercer's catalog included more than 1,500 songs, created during 45 years, written by himself and in partnership with a number of other prominent American composers. He was buried from Christ Church Episcopal and laid to rest in Bonaventure Cemetery.

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