Law and gospel

First Posted: 9/29/2014

ROCKINGHAM — Richmond County’s clerk of superior court is also a gospel singer with three studio CDs under her belt and plans for a new album early next year.

The two careers don’t seem compatible at first glance, but Vickie Daniel said her path is guided by a higher authority and she’s learned not to question the twists and turns in the road.

“I was raised to sing in the choir and to participate in church,” Daniel said. “That’s what I did.”

After the deaths of her mother, grandmother and an uncle within five months in 1990, Daniel was devastated.

“That was everything,” Daniel said. “I mean, your mother. You can go to your mother about anything. And my grandmother helped raise me. My uncle, who had been a pastor here. You either get closer to God or farther away from him when things like that happen. I camped out at the feet of Jesus.”

Daniel began singing with her three aunts in church, forming a “little group” before she ventured out on her own. She began singing solos, and going to rest homes to sing for the residents.

“Ralph Currie, a blind gentleman I met in church, my husband John and I took care of Ralph for over 17 years,” Daniel said. “He was a very talented man and could play anything in the world you could play, and Ralph and I would go out to the rest homes together every Tuesday night and Saturday mornings and I would take my little karaoke or amp and microphones and he would have his guitar. He’d play and I would sing. I enjoyed it so much.”

Daniel said Currie passed away four years ago, and she still misses him each day. Long before she ever gave recording serious consideration, it was Currie who would listen while she sang. He had an ear for music and helped her to hone her talent.

During this time, Daniel also began to receive requests for recordings of her songs — not only from the people she performed for, but also from others in the gospel music business.

“The Easter family from Mount Airy, they are big. Very big,” Daniel said. “They’d come down here and play at my church and we met, and eventually they asked me why I hadn’t recorded anything. I just told them it was all in God’s time, and it wasn’t time yet. But the next time they asked, two years almost to the day, they came back to my church. They asked me to come to their studio in Mount Airy. Finally I said yes and began working on my first CD, “The Rose Beneath the Thorns.”

One of the songs on her first CD, “I’m Determined,” features Currie on guitar.

“So Ralph’s sitting there and he’s picking,” Daniel said. “And I don’t know if you know anything about music, but there’s a difference between strumming a guitar and picking a guitar. Ralph was picking it and doing some awfully fine picking on that song. So the first CD is very special to me.”

Daniel has a logo she uses on everything she produces, and it isn’t what most gospel artists expect.

“God put it in my spirit, an image of a crown of thorns with a rose under it,” she said. “No cross. But that rose and the crown of thorns, that is what God put in my spirit. And it’s not about me. It’s about him.”

The CD was followed by two more, “I’m Ready” and “Father.” But the most recent was produced more than 10 years ago, Daniel said.

Daniel is a firm believer that things happen when the time is right for the faithful. She said that looking back at the opportunities she’s had and the people she’s met, it seems to her that God has planned every step.

“That comes from putting him first,” she said. “I believe that everybody has a calling in life, and that when you do what God has called you to do, he’s going to supply what you need. He’s going to take care of you.”

Right after finishing her first recording and after her CD was produced, she was at home cooking the evening meal when a man called her.

“He asked me to sing country,” she said. “He offered me a contract and money, all this stuff, to come to Nashville and record. I simply said to him, and I’ll never forget it, I said ‘Sir, thank you but no thank you, because God has called me to sing gospel. And what God has called me to do, if I did anything different, would be to turn my back on him.”

One thing gives Daniel goosebumps, and that is a message in a bottle — or rather, the message in two bottles — she received unexpectedly.

“I was in Georgia, booked for a weekend, back around 2010,” Daniel said. “I walked in this little white church and I made eye contact with a young lady. I have always been blessed with a spirit of discernment, my aunt told me. It’s like I can see when someone is being called to come to the altar. And I knew there was something about her, I knew.”

Daniel said she was holding the service that night, and she sang and ministered and gave the altar call. She said she remembers holding it open and keeping it open, because she knew in her spirit that this lady needed to come up.

“She walked up there to me and I took her by the hand,” she said. “I noticed she had marks on her where she would sit and just cut herself, just slicing her arms, both of them. I didn’t know it, but two weeks before that night she had tried to kill herself. So I prayed with her that night. Not long after that she sent me a letter. I got something in the mail.”

Daniel displayed an empty pint bottle that once contained strong rum, and an empty pill bottle labeled “Xanax.”

“She had taken those pills and tried to kill herself,” Daniel said. “Her letter said the bottles were a promise to me that she would never, ever do anything to hurt herself again. ‘Those two bottles have sat on my nightstand right where I left them that night,’ she wrote. To think that someone would do that to themselves. I just know that God wanted me to be there that night, for her. We are still in touch to this day.”

Daniel gets choked up as she reads the letter. She counts it among her greatest treasures.

As for her duties as clerk of superior court, Daniel believes she has the same responsibility to serve God’s people there that she has in her musical ministry.

According to the Institute of Government of North Carolina, “the clerk’s judicial authority makes the office unique. Unlike clerks of other states, the clerk in North Carolina is a judge as well as a clerk.”

The description of the office explains the clerk has jurisdiction of proceedings in probate, as well as various special proceedings. But the clerk does not hold court at any set, appointed time; rather, the clerk’s session is continuous and ongoing.

“I’ve been very dedicated to my job as clerk,” Daniel said. “I always will be. I believe God led me here, and it hasn’t been time for a new recording in a while. But it’s about time now.”

Reach reporter Melonie Flomer at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @melonieflomer.