*The woman who launched the careers of some of the most heralded gospel legends, the original Gospel Caravans–the late Rev. James Cleveland, Shirley Caesar, Inez Andrews and Dorothy Norwood — Albertina Walker has passed away.

Known as the beloved “Queen of Gospel,” Chicago-born Walker took the advice of her friend Mahalia Jackson and founded the legendary Caravans that evolved into worldwide acclaim in the 1950s. The evergreen “Oh Mary Don’t You Weep” became one of their greatest hits.

In early September this year rumors of her death were widespread online, but Walker was in fact hospitalized for respiratory distress and later underwent a Tracheotomy surgery that was reportedly successful.

From the ICU at a Chicago hospital, while connected to a ventilator, she assured her fans via Facebook on September 4:

“I am still here no matter what you have heard.”

On September 17, Walker posted a message on www.albertinawalker.com stating:

“I praise God for my life, strength and good reports as I rest comfortably at this time. Keep me lifted in prayer as I know God is not through with me yet.”

Walker’s respiratory ailments were well known within the gospel industry as under the physical circumstances she remained relatively active as an artist. Due to the love for the music that gave her a name and faith in the God she sang about, she couldn’t be stopped.

She appeared wheel chair assisted with an aspirator at major industry events such as The Stellars and GMWA in recent years and touring with the Caravans for their 2006 reunion recording, “Paved the Way.”

As of 4:30 a.m. on October 8, Walker is no longer with us.

Her indomitable spirit lives on in a half a century’s worth of rich music recorded on 71 albums. Like all of the original members of the Caravans Ms. Walker pursued a solo career. As the poster child for Chicago-styled gospel, her songs, with their declarative tone and straight forward messages, became the meat of the Black Church experience. Songs such as “I’ve Got A Feeling Everything Will Be Alright,” “Jesus Will Fix It,” “Please Be Patient With Me,” and “I Can Go To God In Prayer” are all time-tested classics.

At EUR publication time funeral arrangements had not been released.