This is from the St. Augustine Record of May 7, 2015.
Posted May 7, 2015 04:44 pm – Updated May 8, 2015 12:09 am
Story Behind the Song: ‘Tell Mother I’ll Be There’
“A saintly little lady in Canton, Ohio, affectionately known as “Mother McKinley,” raised her children as she was taught in the Bible. Each one of them became Christians at an early time in their lives.
As soon as they could walk they strolled along with Nancy McKinley to Sunday school each Sunday morning. Only one of her children became famous, and he became the president of the United States — William McKinley.
No person could have been more devoted to his or her mother than William. His Christ-like spirit was evident in his work as a lawyer, Sunday school teacher, congressman, governor of Ohio and finally as President of the United States.
“I cannot subscribe to the idea that luck had very much to do with making me President of the United States,” William McKinley once said. “I have never been in doubt since I was old enough to think intelligently that I would sometime be made president.”
His mother had other intentions for her son who was born in Ohio in 1843. He was the seventh of nine children born to William and Nancy McKinley. She was superintendent of the Sunday School and often boasted to friends that her son would one day be a Methodist bishop. Her comment following McKinley’s being elected the 25th United States president was, “Well, that’s all right, too.”
One report gives information that every day of McKinley’s adult life, when not able to see his mother, he either sent a telegraph message or wrote a letter to her. This practice continued until her death.
It is reported that one day in 1897 President McKinley made his way by train from the White House to Canton, Ohio, just to walk to church once more with his beloved mother. During that same year she became ill and he had a special telegraph wire installed from the White House to his mother’s home in Ohio. He had a special train standing by with a full head of steam.
McKinley’s mother became ill and very weak and it seemed that the end was near. Her attendants sent a message to McKinley, reporting on her condition. He sent a return message that simply read: Tell mother I’ll be there.
He rushed to her side and she passed away on December 12, 1897, in the arms of her son. He, at that time, was 54 years of age. For more than an hour he did not move from her bedside.
A prolific songwriter by the name of Charles M. Fillmore was so inspired by this beautiful story he wrote a very moving song, Tell Mother I’ll Be There.
When I was but a little child, how well I recollect
How I would grieve my mother with my folly and neglect;
And now that she has gone to Heav’n I miss her tender care:
O Savior, tell my mother I’ll be there!
Tell mother I’ll be there, in answer to her prayer;
This message, blessed Savior, to her bear!
Tell mother I’ll be there, Heav’n’s joys with her to share;
Yes, tell my darling mother I’ll be there.
Honour thy father and mother;
(which is the first commandment with promise….
— Ephesians 6:2”
And here is Jack Holcomb’s recording of the song: