Brother Slater was a kind of celebrity at our church when I was a boy. He and his wife Sister Slater would sit toward the front on the left side of the auditorium. As a young boy, all I knew was that he had written Walking Alone At Eve, which was one of my favorite songs.
William Washington Slater was more than a celebrity; he was a great saint and servant of God. Born in 1885 in Arkansas, Will’s family moved to Indian Territory in 1890 to farm. Like many boys of his time, his formal schooling ended in the fourth or fifth grade, but not his desire for learning.
By the time he was 18, his special interest in music was apparent. The story is told of his saddling and riding a mule fifteen miles every Saturday to attend singing schools, so he could become a better song leader. He later decided he wanted to preach as well, so he soon became a preacher-song leader, preaching gospel meetings and leading singing for other great preachers.
He married Nettie Washington in 1910, and they had five children. Three of his daughters went to church at Eastridge Church of Christ, where I grew up, so I knew them and several of their children. Thelma Slater married Wade Banowsky and one of their sons William Slater Banowsky became president of University of Oklahoma and Pepperdine University.
I remember the quiet announcement at church that Brother Slater had died while preaching a meeting in Arkansas in 1959. According to accounts of his last day, he had preached his sermon and, as was his custom, offered to stay after church and sing with any who wanted to join him. Someone asked him to lead a song entitled “This Is Someone’s Last Day.” Before leading it, he reminded the church to pay attention to the truth of the message, not knowing that it was his very own last day.
Walking Alone At Eve (1917) was one of Will Slater’s earliest songs. As in many older hymns, it is God’s creation that inspires worship. I imagine country folks walking or riding in their wagons home from an evening of preaching and singing. As it grows dark and the stars start popping out, this might be one of the songs that they would sing.
Walking alone at eve and viewing the skies afar,
Bidding the darkness come to welcome each silver star;
I have a great delight in the wonderful scenes above,
God in His power and might is showing His truth and love.
Sitting alone at eve and dreaming the hours away,
Watching the shadows falling now at the close of day;
God in His mercy comes with His Word He is drawing near,
Spreading His love and truth around me and everywhere.
Closing my eyes at eve and thinking of Heaven’s grace,
Longing to see my Lord, yes meeting Him face to face;
Trusting Him as my all where-so-ever my footsteps roam,
Pleading with Him to guide me on to the spirits’ home!
The chorus is that simple, ubiquitous longing for rest with God. Resting is the reward for working hard. I wonder why we don’t sing many songs about rest anymore? The melody of the chorus is simple, not a passionate cry, but a quiet, simple longing.
O for a home with God, a place in His courts to rest,
Sure in a safe abode with Jesus and the blest;
Rest for a weary soul once redeemed by the Savior’s love,
Where I’ll be pure and whole and live with my God above!
I don’t really know why, but I have sung this song to all of our kids as I rocked them to sleep. Perhaps it was singing at the end of the day, usually in a darkened room, and the simplicity of the melody—I’m not quite sure why it became one of those songs I sang to them, but it did.
I do know that it cleanses your soul to hold your little God-gifts on your shoulder and to sing about being pure and whole and living with God. The congruity of those precious moments with this melody has always been redemptive for me.
Great hymns do improve our walk with God.