Song Snapshots is a column featuring the stories behind new and classic Southern Gospel songs.
Although “I’m Not Ashamed” only came to national attention when the Inspirations recorded it seven years ago, the song was already twenty years old. It was written by Leonard Fletcher of the Fletcher Family, a group that sings at church concerts and evangelistic events throughout the Southeast.
The Fletcher Family started singing twenty-nine years ago. Leonard, who has written many of the songs the group sings, wrote “I’m Not Ashamed” about two years later.“It was one of the first songs I ever wrote,” he recalls, adding that it “is really the song that has defined our ministry.”
He still vividly remembers the day he wrote the song. He was working a full-time job at a supermarket. He was saved as a young boy, but drifted spiritually in his teens, and had recently rededicated his life to the Lord. He recalls:
The day I wrote “I’m Not Ashamed,” I was at work, and I was very spiritually discouraged. We had been singing a little locally in churches, but it seemed that the devil was really fighting. I was stocking groceries that day on the pet food aisle and it seemed that the dark clouds would not go away.
It was then it seemed that Satan himself was there with me that day, doing what he does best, accusing the brethren. It was almost like I could hear him say, “You are unworthy to sing or do anything else for God after some of the things you have done, and some of the places you have been. You should be ashamed of yourself!!”
It was then that something rose up in me that began to talk back to the devil, and I said in my mind, “Devil, you are right, I am ashamed of some of the things I have done, but I’m Not Ashamed to stand and say that I love Jesus!”
As I said that, suddenly words began to flow. I grabbed a piece of cardboard and began to write these words: “I’m not ashamed to stand and say that I love Jesus / I’m not ashamed to say I’m trusting in his word / I’m not ashamed in lifting high that blood stained banner / Because I’m saved, I’m not ashamed.”
I went home later that day and told my wife, I said, “I think I have written a song.” I asked her to go to the piano and help me put music to it. We began singing it shortly thereafter, and everywhere we sang it people responded in a great way.
They introduced the song in a Wednesday Night prayer meeting service in North Carolina. Though there were only fifteen or twenty people there, the song got such a strong response that they ended up singing it three times before the night ended.
They sang it for the next twenty years in their area. Choirs and local groups picked it up, and it became known in the area.
Not long after writing the song, Leonard surrendered to the call of the ministry; today, he preaches around forty weeks each year throughout the southeast. The Fletcher Family appears at some of those meetings. He also pastors Dyson Grove Baptist Church, an independent Baptist Church in Butler, Tennessee.
In the mid-2000s, evangelist Dr. Joe Arthur heard the Fletcher Family sing it at an evangelistic meeting. He told Leonard that he could just hear the Inspirations sing it, and asked permission to pitch the song to them. Leonard said he would be honored.
The rest is history. The Inspirations recorded it on their 2005 album From the Smokies, and it quickly became one of their signature songs. It was a top ten nominee for Song of the Year in the 2006 Singing News Fan Awards.
“…and it all started with a discouraged child of God on the dog food aisle.”