CLOVER -- George Matthew Wingard passed away on Nov. 27, 2007. He was 89 years old.
He was born Jan. 28, 1918, to Mary Richardson and Quincy Yates Wingard in the town of Johnston, S.C. He had one brother, James and one sister, Bernice. When hard economic times hit in 1922, the family returned to Lexington S.C. Here, Matt grew up among his many cousins. He attended Lexington Elementary and High School which was directly across the street from where his father had built their home. At a very young age, Matt was exposed to music, taking classical clarinet lessons from Dutch Weiderman. Later he became fascinated with the Jazz movement. After graduation from high school in 1935, Matt joined the WPA Orchestra in Columbia, S.C. In January of 1936, he joined the Jack Wardlaw Rolling Rhythm Band. For the next four years, Matt was on the road all over the U.S. playing in the Wardlaw Band, the Boofie Graham Band and in the Bob Sylvester band. In January of 1941, Matt joined the South Carolina National Guard and was a member of its band. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the South Carolina National Guard was absorbed by the U.S. Army 178th Field Artillery. Matt served with this outfit for the remainder of the war. In November of 1942, the 178th Field Artillery left England for North Africa and Matt and his outfit spent the remainder of the war sometimes as soldiers but most of the time as musicians, entertaining the troops at various camps just a short distance from enemy lines, until they reached Rome in 1943. They were now called the 246th Army Ground Forces Band and during this time Matt was Staff Sergeant and was responsible for directing and rehearsing the band along with writing the arrangements. In Rome, over the course of 18 months, the band performed for tens of thousands of Allied troops on R and R, playing and rehearsing day and night. They were also called upon to play for the local Italian citizens whenever a band or orchestra was needed for special events. In September 1945, the 246th Army Ground Forces Band was deactivated. Matt decided to attend New York University to continue his music education. All the while, Matt played in Jazz bands in and around NYC, on weekends and late at night after classes. Matt found low-cost lodging by being a part-time elevator operator in a settlement house in Greenwich Village. This is where he met his wife-to-be, Janet Mann. They were married in the Columbia University Chapel on Aug. 2, 1947. They recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary on Aug. 2nd, 2007. After graduating from NYU in the spring of 1949, Matt received a call from South Carolina inviting him to interview for a job as Band Director for two school systems that were close to each other. He met Clover School District Superintendent Tom Kinard in Philadelphia, Pa. in the summer of 1949 and was offered the job of building band programs in two separate school districts, York and Clover. He accepted the job and came to South Carolina in July 1949. After one year of teaching both band programs, the Clover community was so impressed that the Clover School District offered him the same salary just to teach band in Clover. For 27 years, Matt taught band in Clover, raised a family and played Jazz on nights and weekends. Over the years, Matt was a back-up musician for such talent as Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Tom Jones, Liberace, Sonny and Cher, Guy Lombardo, Raymond Scott, The Dorsey bands, Andy Williams and scores of others. He served as Loonis McGlohon's chief arranger in the 1960s and also was a regular in his big band. He also played in the Bill Knauff band and the Jimmy Farr band in Columbia. Many of his arrangements are in the Winthrop University Music Library. Matt loved his family dearly and loved and studied music until his death. He taught with passion and perfection was always his goal. Today, his tremendous influence continues in his former students with their passion for life and music.
A special Memorial Service will be held in honor of George "Matt" Wingard on Sunday, Dec. 2 at 4 p.m. at the Clover Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, where he was choir director for many years. The entire Clover community along with all the friends, former students, relatives and fellow musicians that Matt worked with over the years are invited. Immediately following the service, the family will receive same in the ARP Church Fellowship Hall.
Survivors are his wife, Janet Mann Wingard of the home; daughter, Adra Wingard Alexander of Clover, S.C.; sons, Richard Yates Wingard of Carlyle, Mass., Peter Ford Wingard of Decatur, Ga., and Philip Matthew Wingard Sr. of Clover, S.C.; grandchildren, Benjamin Wingard, Seth Alexander, Mathew Wingard, Anna Wingard, Michael Wingard, Janet Wingard, Lloyd Wingard, Connor Wingard, Caroline Wingard and Julia Wingard; and great-grandchildren, Austin Wingard, Anne Wingard and McKenna Wingard.
In lieu of flowers, the family encourages the community to support the George Matthew Wingard Passion for Music Scholarship fund. Donations should be sent directly to the Clover School District Office, 604 Bethel St., Clover, SC 29710 in care of Ken Love.
M.L. Ford & Sons is serving the family of Mr. Wingard.