HARROGATE, Tenn. — Lincoln Memorial University mourns the loss of bluegrass music legend, Dr. Ralph Stanley. Stanley was 89 years old when he passed away peacefully in his sleep on June 23, after a long battle with skin cancer, according to his grandson, Nathan Stanley.
“Lincoln Memorial University is deeply honored to be a small part of Dr. Ralph Stanley’s story,” said LMU President B. James Dawson. “While we mourn one of the truest voices of Appalachia, we celebrate a life well lived and a proud legacy that will live on in the music he has left behind.”
In 1976, LMU awarded Stanley an honorary doctorate in recognition of his contributions to the bluegrass genre and of his lifetime of achievements in the field of music. In 2002, LMU established the Dr. Ralph Stanley Endowed Music Scholarship with proceeds from a tribute concert led by Stanley’s former sideman, Ricky Skaggs. The scholarship is still given out today to music students from Dickenson or Wise County, Virginia.
During his years on the road, Ralph Stanley has been known as Dr. Stanley; to heavy-hitters in the entertainment business, he is “Dr. Ralph.” While Stanley is certainly no stranger to the awards and recognition cycle, he always spoke very fondly of his honorary doctorate from LMU, and wore his title proudly and with dignity.
Born in a coal mining community in Southwest Virginia in 1927, Stanley had been playing the banjo since he was a young boy. He and his brother Carter performed together as the Stanley Boys. In 1946, after considering a career in veterinary medicine, he decided to form a band with his brother called the Clinch Mountain Boys. Carter passed away in 1966 but Stanley continued performing as the Clinch Mountain Boys. In 2000, his music was featured in the film “O Brother, Where Art Thou,” for which he won a Grammy award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance in 2002.