James Harbin Photos | Digital Traditions

James Harbin has been the president of the Anderson County Singing Convention for over thirty years. A native of the Green Pond section of Anderson County, he grew up in a family of active gospel singers. His father also served as president of the convention. Harbin and two of his aunts have performed as a trio for many years. The Anderson County Singing Convention was formed in 1868, earlier than any other known singing convention in the country. Since the early 20th century, the convention has performed from shape note convention books published by the Stamps-Baxter and Vaughan Companies.

During the 1950s and 1960s, most of the other county singing conventions in South Carolina were discontinued. Harbin took over the Anderson County Convention during this period of decline and has kept it going through the years. Harbin takes his role in perpetuating the singing tradition earnestly. He has attended singing schools sponsored by the Vaughan Company and he buys one hundred copies of the Vaughan and Stamps-Baxter songbooks as they come out each year. He is recognized regionally as a fine singer and song leader. Harbin received the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award in 1989.