Charles Albert Tindley was born July 7, 1851, in Berline, Maryland, to Charles Tindley, a slave, and Hester Miller Tindley, a free woman. His mother died when he was five, making him an orphan. His aunt raised him until he was old enough to be hired out. His mother and aunt taught him to love the Lord, but his master never allowed him to go to church and threatened him with a whip.
As a child, Mr. Tindley never received any formal schooling. After the War Between the States, he became free, and from sheer determination at the age of 17, he taught himself to read and write.
At the age of seventeen he married Daisy Henry and moved to Philadelphia where he got a job as janitor of the Calvary Methodist Episcopal Church.
He attended night school there in Philadelphia and took a correspondence course from the Boston School of Theology. When he took his examination for the ministry he finished in second place in a large class of candidates. In spite of his lack of formal training, he became known as a very educated man, including his mastery of Greek and Hebrew.
After being ordained in 1885, he served in several small churches in several eastern states.
In 1902, when he was 51, he became the pastor of the church he had been the janitor of, and held that position for thirty years. Because of his skillful leadership the membership of his church went from two hundred members to twelve thousand, five hundred.
In 1924, a larger building was built, and the church was renamed, against his wishes, Tindley Temple Methodist Church.
He gave away between 500 and 600 meals each evening, and allowed the homeless to get hot baths and clothes in the basement of the church. The mayor of Philadelphia visited and being so impressed, gave Pastor Tindley a personal check for $2,000.
Mr. Tindley was considered one of the founding fathers of American Gospel music. He wrote over forty hymns in his lifetime.
Some of the hymns he wrote were:
When Mr. Tindley died, on July 26, 1933, at the age of 82, there were so many contributions to his funeral that it lasted for five hours. Downtown streets had to be roped off to keep the crowds out of the way of the hearse that held his body.
Paul Eckert, Steve Green's MIDI Hymnal: A Complete Toolkit for Personal Devotions and Corporate Worship, Electronic ed. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1998).
Robert J. Morgan, Nelson's Annual Preacher's Sourcebook: 2002 Edition, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001), p. 203.
Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1990), pp. 218, 233.
Kenneth W. Osbeck, 101 More Hymn Stories (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1985), p. 171.
Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: A Treasury of Illustrations, Anecdotes, Facts and Quotations for Pastors, Teachers and Christian Workers (Garland TX: Bible Communications, 1996, c1979), 4202.