Kirk Franklin, (second from left), poses with members of New Mount Rose Missionary Baptist Church at a Texas Rangers' game where the performer threw the first pitch and was honored with a legacy day. (Courtesy | New Mount Rose Missionary Baptist Church)

When he was just 11 years old, Kirk Franklin became the choirmaster at New Mount Rose Missionary Baptist Church in Fort Worth’s Morningside neighborhood.

The appointment was highly unusual, but it was clear even then that Franklin had something special.

“It was a sight to see. He commanded the attention of the crowd and the respect of the choir,” Kyev Tatum, the current senior pastor of New Mount Rose, said.

From there, Franklin went on to perform around the world and became one of the biggest names in gospel music.

Since 1996, the musician has won 16 GRAMMYs and been nominated 30 times. On Feb. 5, he took another three home.

Franklin, alongside the group Maverick City Music, won awards for Best Gospel Performance/Song, Best Contemporary Christian Performance/Song, and Best Gospel Album. Maverick City Music also won the award for Best Contemporary Christian Album.

“It’s amazing,” Mervil Johnson, the church’s minister of music, said. “He has a universal appeal …The thing that we find most impressive about him is that he still stays connected to the community. And he is such an inspiration for our young people.”

Franklin was raised by his aunt, who was friends with Tatum’s mom. The two boys didn’t attend the same church growing up, but they both participated in a group called “The Blessed Ones” that met at the Butler Place public housing projects.

“They kept us in church morning, noon and night so we could try to stay out of trouble,” Tatum recalled. “We have to share his legacy so that these kids at Morningside and others who don’t believe they’re anything or have anything realize that they can do well if they focus and give God proper credit.”

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New Mount Rose has been proud of Franklin’s success throughout his career, but Tatum said the new awards are especially meaningful to the congregation after a rough few years.

The church responded to the pandemic by holding food drives, helping people get vaccines and facilitating other community outreach projects.

In 2021 when an ice storm hit the state, Mount Rose’s chapel flooded. The church was able to renovate and reopen the sanctuary, and renamed it the “Kirk Franklin Chapel” in the GRAMMY winner’s honor.

“I always knew he was going to be a phenomenal musician,” Johnson said. “Some of the ladies that are in the choir today still talk to me about their association with Kirk and how they thought he was going to be great, too. I mean, these ladies are in their 80s, but they knew him when he was just 11.”

Tatum hopes that Fort Worth will be inspired by Franklin’s story, and will believe in the message that hangs above the church’s entrance: “The Greatest People in the World Enter These Doors.”

Marcheta Fornoff covers the arts for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at or on Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Marcheta FornoffArts & Culture Editor

For just over seven years Marcheta Fornoff performed the high wire act of producing a live morning news program on Minnesota Public Radio. She led a small, but nimble team to cover everything from politics...