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Little girls memories stay alive through song
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Life Reporter Ashley Bates stands with her grandfather, "Daddy Don," in this 1989 photo. Don Mangum was a longtime member of The King's Messengers.

When I was a kid I thought it was pretty amusing that my grandfather was in a band - at least that's how I put it. How many little girls' grandfathers were in a band?

This was especially cool when my brother Ryan and I got to go "on tour" when we came to visit Gainesville in the summers.

My grandfather, Don Mangum (better known to my family as Daddy Don), was in The King's Messengers, and he sang and played bass for the Gainesville-based group until he died. The group traveled all over North Georgia singing Southern gospel harmonies.

When it was time to go on tour we would climb aboard that huge bus with the group and my grandmother, Millie Mangum.

For years my brother went to many of the quartet's practices and singings, but I only attended a couple myself. I remember one performance in Dillard when I was about 12.

I put on my turquoise and white polka-dot shirt and skirt, my bright white shoes - which my grandmother spent most of the day cleaning - and we all packed onto that tour bus and headed to the mountains.

This was one of the scariest rides of my young life. We were headed over mountains in a tour bus and since I was a flatlander from central Florida, I thought at any moment we would flip end-over-end off the mountain.

I spent most of that ride with my eyes closed, peeking out to watch my younger brother closely just in case we went on that last trip down the mountain.

But thanks to bus driver Stanley Parker, we made it to Dillard.

During that singing, I watched with disbelief as these men performed to the crowd - and the audience really liked what they were hearing. They belted out Southern gospel standards for an hour or two while we sat on old wooden church pews. People were coming to the front of the church and praying, singing and some even crying.

It was that night that I finally understood what Daddy Don had been doing all those years when he was traveling all around Georgia and going to quartet practice for hours on end.

After that I didn't go to another singing, I don't think. I was growing up and was just too busy to see Daddy Don's group, or at least that's what I thought.

And before you know it, just how life is, Daddy Don suddenly died on May 24, 2001. It crushed everyone in my family along with the men in the quartet.

Lead singer Jerry Carder told me the other day that the four men were closer than any brothers could be, and Stanley Parker said the day when Daddy Don died was unreal to him.

But one thing that eventually gave me peace was the CD that The King's Messengers had recorded just before Daddy Don's death called "I'll Live Again."

All the songs on the CD were about the afterlife and how great it will be when all get to heaven. I thought it was so ironic that they had recorded that CD just before Daddy Don's death.

He had lived in East Hall his entire life running the grocery store and filling station he and my grandmother owned, and he also was a butcher. But most of all he was a friend to anyone who walked in the door at Don Mangum's Grocery.

So here's what I think - the album "I'll Live Again" was an omen, and Daddy Don knew what he was doing when he recorded that last album.

In some way, he knew his end on earth was coming and even after his death, he would keep inspiring hope to all of us through his music.

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