The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Robert Wooten, Sr.

Gospel conductor and lifelong resident of Chicago, Robert E. "Gene" Wooten, Sr., was the fourth of five sons born to Flora and John Henry Wooten on February 17, 1930.

While a student at Morgan Park High School, Wooten organized a gospel choral group, the Morgan Park Crusaders, in 1945. After graduation, Wooten was stricken by a serious illness and hospitalized for a year. After recovering from his illness, Wooten devoted his life and musical talent to serving his faith; in July 1949 he founded the Wooten Choral Ensemble, based at Beth Eden Baptist Church. Wooten received his B.S. degree in music education from the Chicago Musical Conservatory in 1956, and earned his M.S. degree in the same field from Roosevelt University in 1968.

The Wooten Choral Ensemble boasted more than sixty members, and traveled extensively to perform and preach the gospel. Its hallmark through the years was expressing a spiritual message through anthems, hymns, black spirituals, and gospel sounds. Wooten's group recorded several albums and appeared on many local radio and television programs.

Outside of the church, Wooten enjoyed a distinguished career as an educator. At Parker High School, Wooten led the school's choir to citywide fame and rose to the rank of assistant principal before becoming a district administrator. Wooten worked with the Chicago Board of Education until his retirement in 1994.

For his contributions to gospel music, Wooten received many awards and recognitions. Wooten accepted an honorary doctorate from Virginia Seminary College in 1983, and was recognized at the Chicago Gospel Festival in 1994 for his contributions to religious music. Wooten and his wife, Frances, were married in 1956; the couple raised three children.

Robert E. "Gene" Wooten, Sr., passed away on March 27, 2008.

Accession Number

A2003.196

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/19/2003

Last Name

Wooten

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

E.

Schools

John D. Shoop Math-Science Technical Academy

Morgan Park High School

Chicago Conservatory of Music

Roosevelt University

Virginia University of Lynchburg

First Name

Robert

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

WOO04

Favorite Season

Christmas

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Las Vegas, Nevada

Favorite Quote

I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

2/17/1930

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Salmon Croquettes, Chicken, Greens

Death Date

3/27/2008

Short Description

High school administrator and choral director Robert Wooten, Sr. (1930 - 2008 ) is the founder and director of the Wooten Choral Ensemble gospel choir.

Employment

Goldstein Millinery

Chicago Board of Education

Favorite Color

Black

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Robert Wooten interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Robert Wooten's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Robert Wooten discusses his mother's background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Robert Wooten remembers his stepmother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Robert Wooten discusses his father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Robert Wooten shares his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Robert Wooten describes his childhood home, Morgan Park, Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Robert Wooten recalls his childhood pastimes

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Robert Wooten remembers his school days

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Robert Wooten recalls the role of music in his childhood home

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Robert Wooten discusses his pull towards music performance

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Robert Wooten describes influences from his school years

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Robert Wooten recalls his tenure at the Chicago Conservatory of Music

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Robert Wooten remembers his struggles to pay for the Chicago Conservatory of Music

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Robert Wooten shares life lessons from the Chicago Conservatory of Music

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Robert Wooten discusses his decision to pursue music education

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Robert Wooten discusses the creation of the Wooten Choral Ensemble, part 1

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Robert Wooten describes the origins of the Wooten Choral Ensemble

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Robert Wooten discusses his career in the Chicago Public Schools system

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Robert Wooten details the highlights of his musical career

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Robert Wooten describes his family's musical pursuits

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Robert Wooten considers his favorite compositions and arrangements

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Robert Wooten discusses black musical legacies

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Robert Wooten describes the Wooten Choral Ensemble's musical choices

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Robert Wooten discusses the Wooten Choral Ensemble's collaborations

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Robert Wooten considers his legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Robert Wooten considers how he'd like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Photo - Robert Wooten in his teenage years, 1940s

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Photo - Robert Wooten's second oldest brother, Dr. John C. Wooten

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Photo - Robert Wooten's two sons and two nephews, Morgan Park, Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Photo - Robert Wooten and wife, Frances, on their wedding day, Chicago, Illinois, August 1956

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Photo - Robert Wooten makes an address at the 20th anniversary of the Wooten Choral Ensemble, Chicago, Illinois, July 1969

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Photo - Robert Wooten with his assistant director and Donald Bexley

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Photo - Robert Wooten with Mrs. Sid Ordower, producer of the 'Jubilee Showcase'

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Photo - Robert Wooten with his son, daughter-in-law and a pastor of Memorial Baptist Church, ca. 1998

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Photo - Robert Wooten with leaders from the Wooten Choral Ensemble, ca. 1998

Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Photo - Robert Wooten with his wife and son, ca. 1958

Tape: 4 Story: 14 - Photo - Robert Wooten makes a church service address, Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 15 - Photo - Robert Wooten receives an honorary doctorate at West Virginia Seminary and College, West Virginia

Tape: 4 Story: 16 - Photo - Robert Wooten before a concert, not dated

Tape: 4 Story: 17 - Photo - Robert Wooten at his high school graduation, Chicago, Illinois, 1948

Tape: 4 Story: 18 - Photo - Robert Wooten and his wife on a cruise to the Bahamas, ca. 1980s

Tape: 4 Story: 19 - Photo - Robert Wooten during his tenure at the Chicago Board of Education

Tape: 4 Story: 20 - Photo - Robert Wooten prepares the Englewood High School choir for competition, Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 21 - Photo - Robert Wooten at the Area A Student Recognition Luncheon, Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 22 - Photo - Robert Wooten and his wife serve as Parker High School senior prom chaperones, Chicago, Illinois, 1960s

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Photo - Robert Wooten, ca. 1970s

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Photo - Robert Wooten with his eldest brother, ca. 2000

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Photo - Robert Wooten with his last living brother

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Photo - Robert Wooten with friends from his Tuesday morning breakfast club, Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Photo - Robert Wooten with family members

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Photo - Reverend Henry Bracken of the Greater Harvest Baptist Church, Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Photo - Robert Wooten's father

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Photo - Robert Wooten with boss James Moore at an event at the Harambee House, Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Photo - Robert Wooten with his daughter

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Photo - Robert Wooten and his two grandsons

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Photo - Robert Wooten with his brother, sister-in-law and wife

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Photo - Robert Wooten's youngest brother in his policeman's uniform

Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Photo - Robert Wooten and his wife in the early 1960s

Tape: 5 Story: 14 - Photo - Robert Wooten with family members at the renaming of a Chicago, Illinois street

Tape: 5 Story: 15 - Photo - Robert Wooten, ca. 1970s

Tape: 5 Story: 16 - Photo - Robert Wooten with the Wooten Choral Ensemble, Chicago, Illinois, 1991