Gospel music's producer, pianist, singer and songwriter Gordon Mote is now a doctor! On May 6, Jacksonville State University presented Mote an Honorary Doctorate of Letters in recognition of his outstanding contributions to music. He was honored at the university's spring commencement ceremony, where he also served as commencement speaker.
Famed Alabama frontman Randy Owen - a JSU English alumnus and member of its Board of Trustees - was on stage to help confer the honorary doctorate upon his longtime friend. "Life certainly has not been easy for Gordon Mote, but he combined hard work with natural talent and made an incredible life for himself," Owen said whileintroducing Mote to the crowd.
Blind since birth, Mote was blessed with profound musical talent in lieu of vision. At age three, he amazed his family on Thanksgiving by sitting down at the piano and playing "Jesus Loves Me" with both hands. As a young man, he became one of the first blind students in the country to be mainstreamed into the public school system.
When it came time for college, the Attalla, Ala., native was awarded a full scholarship to JSU, located just 30 miles from his hometown. He knew he wanted to pursue a music career, inspired at a young age by Fort Payne heroes Alabama.
"I remember the first time I heard 'My Home's in Alabama'," Mote said, singing the chorus from Alabama's hit song to the commencement crowd. "When I heard them sing and then they started having hit after hit, I thought if they can do it maybe I can do it too.So, hearing the group Alabama gave me license to dream much bigger than maybe I ever would have."
Mote attended JSU for three years before transferring to Belmont University his senior year to be closer to the Nashville music scene. Just two days after graduating from college, he was hired by Lee Greenwood's band and the rest is music history. He has released 11 solo albums in addition to becoming one of Nashville's most sought-after studio musicians. The honorary doctorate cements his alumni status at JSU.
Mote and Owen are among a number of successful country artists who got their start atJacksonville State. Riley Green and Jamey Johnson also attended the university, with Green serving as quarterback on the Gamecock football team while Johnson performedwith the Marching Southerners. In 2018, after the university was struck by a disastrous EF-3 tornado, Owen pulled the group together for a benefit concert held in JSU Stadium.