"Wings of a Dove" Writer, Bob Ferguson, Dies at 73 in Mississippi

Songwriter and producer Robert B. "Bob" Ferguson died Sunday, July 22, at the University of Mississippi Hospital in Jackson, Miss. He was 73 years old. The hospital declined to release any details of his death.

Ferguson is best known for writing the country classics "Wings of a Dove" and "The Carroll County Accident" and for producing RCA acts such as Connie Smith, Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton.

Ferguson also managed Ferlin Husky, whose 1960 recording of "Wings of a Dove" stayed at No. 1 on the country charts for 10 weeks. Wagoner’s cut of "The Carroll County Accident" charted in late 1968 and ultimately reached the No. 2 spot. The Country Music Association named it song of the year in 1969.

Born Dec. 30, 1927, in Willow Springs, Mo., Ferguson went on to study at Southwest Missouri State University and Washington State University, where he worked as an announcer for the college radio station. In 1955, he took a job producing movies for the Tennessee Game & Fish Commission. It was during this period that he wrote "Wings of a Dove." Speaking of the song, Ferguson told author Dorothy Horstman, "This is a personal expression of faith and joy in achieving a goal. When I wrote it, I had just completed 13 films on wildlife, and I was elated that the job was done."

The success of the song enabled Ferguson to involve himself fully in the music business. According to writer Daniel Cooper, Ferguson even recorded briefly under the name "Eli Possumtrot."

At RCA Records, Ferguson worked under the guidance of Chet Atkins. One of his most admired productions at the label was of Smith’s 1964 breakthrough hit, "Once a Day." His was also the hand behind such other Smith essentials as "The Hurtin’s All Over," "Just for What I Am" and "If It Ain’t Love (Let’s Leave It Alone)."

Ferguson told Horstman that he conceived of the story for "The Carroll Country Accident" while on the road: "I was driving through Tennessee on my way to Mississippi when I passed an interstate sign that said ‘Carroll County,’ and I said to myself, ‘If I don’t slow down, I’ll be the Carroll County accident,’ and then I thought, ‘If that isn’t a song title, I’ve never heard one.’" In addition to writing the song, he produced Wagoner’s version of it, as well as the "The Green, Green Grass of Home."

For Parton, Ferguson produced "Coat of Many Colors," "My Tennessee Mountain Home," "Down From Dover," "Jolene," the original "I Will Always Love You" and many others.

Writer Bill Littleton says the quality that most impressed him about Ferguson was his decisiveness: "Whatever he was doing, he did it. He really did it. And when it was time for him to go do something else, he left. I’ve never seen anybody make those transitions as thoroughly and as effectively as he could."

After working in the music business, Ferguson moved with his family to a Choctaw Indian reservation near Philadelphia, Miss.

Survivors include Ferguson’s wife, Martha Ferguson; sons John and Robert Bruce Ferguson; daughters Mary Lewis, all of Philadelphia, Miss., and Missouri Brown of Hugo, Okla.; and brothers Claude Ferguson, of Indiana, and Paul Ferguson, of Amarillo, Texas.

Services are set for 10 a.m. Wednesday at Pearl River Baptist Church on the Choctaw reservation. Milling Funeral Home of Union, Miss., is in charge of arrangements.

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