(RNS) Albertina Walker, a singer known as the “queen of gospel” because she launched the careers of other gospel artists, died Friday (Oct. 8) at the age of 81.
Walker founded The Caravans, a Chicago-based gospel group that included such luminaries as Shirley Caesar and Dorothy Norwood, in 1951.

“The reason she’s called the queen of gospel is because she created so many princesses in gospel,” said Bil Carpenter, author of “Uncloudy Days: The Gospel Music Encyclopedia.”

“If she heard a good singer she was willing to give them the spotlight.”

The Chicago-based Walker also launched the career of the Rev. James Cleveland, who once played the piano for The Caravans.

“Very few gospel artists in the ‘50s could make a living singing gospel,” Carpenter said. “Everyone in The Caravans only worked in The Caravans. They didn’t have another job. That’s how successful they were.”

Walker was inducted in the Detroit-based International Gospel Music Hall of Fame and Museum as well as the Nashville, Tenn.-based Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame. She was honored by former George W. Bush at a 2002 White House ceremony celebrating African-American music.

Walker, who had been ill, wrote more than 100 songs. Her solo hits included “Please Be Patient with Me” and “I Can Go to God in Prayer.”

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