“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” 1 Corinthians 15:5 (NIV).
On Christmas Eve, 1885, American musician Eugene Monroe Bartlett was born. From a young age, Bartlett dedicated his life to loving and serving Jesus. He had a passion for music and business and would teach music anywhere people were interested in learning across the south. In 1917, he married his high school sweetheart, Joan Tatum.
In 1918 Bartlett founded the Hartford Music Company in Hartford, Arkansas. The company published hymnals, selling more than 15,000 in the first year. His goal was not only to publish hymnals but to also teach singers how to read music. Many of the published hymnals featured some of his own works, including “Everybody Will Be Happy Over There,” and “Just a Little While.”
In 1939, at the age of 53, Bartlett suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed and unable to speak. He could no longer travel, but during this time, he wrote his best-known hymn, “Victory in Jesus.”
While in his bed paralyzed, he thought about the day he was saved and wrote the words, “I heard an old, old story, how a Savior came from glory.” He said he felt the Holy Spirit urging him to write the next verse, “I heard about His healing, of His cleaning pow’r revealing.” He thought about the redemption story and wanted his song to be a joyful one. The three verses of the song tell the story of how a person comes to salvation in Christ.
“Oh, victory in Jesus, my Savior, forever. He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood; He loved me ere I knew Him and all my love is due Him, he plunged me to victory, beneath the cleansing flood.”
Since Bartlett could no longer travel, his son Eugene Jr. took over and continued Bartlett’s traveling ministry across the south. While at a revival in East Texas, Eugene Jr. felt the Holy Spirit telling him to sing his father’s newest song, “Victory in Jesus.” The revival welcomed the public debut of the hymn. “At the end of the service over 50 men and women had accepted Christ as their Savior.”
During Bartlette’s suffering, he had been able to write the words, “And then I cried dear Jesus, come and heal my broken spirit.” In 1941, Bartlett Sr. passed away from complications from the stroke he had two years earlier. He published over 800 songs during his 56 years of life and left us with a beautiful hymn that reminds us no matter what we are going through, no matter how bleak things become, we always have victory. That victory is in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.