Tomlin returning to his TJC roots on Oct. 26 | TJC

Tomlin returning to his TJC roots on Oct. 26

Chris Tomlin has been called “the most-sung artist anywhere” by TIME magazine.

He’s won a roomful of Grammy, Dove, Billboard and American Music Awards. His albums have been certified gold and platinum. On any given Sunday, tens of millions of people in churches around the world sing songs of praise from his rich, worship-focused catalog.

The Grand Saline native’s tremendous success comes as no surprise to those who knew him as a budding speaker and performer when he was a Tyler Junior College student in the early 1990s.

From the outset, teachers recognized Tomlin’s gift for performing and speaking from the heart.

Tomlin’s talent was first noticed during a speech class by professor Jacque Shackelford, who recommended he see professor M’Liss Hindman about joining the forensics team.

Hindman remembers the meeting.

“Chris had raw talent,” she said. “He was so charismatic and had a natural gift. He spoke and performed with such sincerity.”

Not only did Tomlin earn a spot on the team, he became a successful competitor for TJC and a popular speaker at community events.

“His speech on country music – for which he composed and performed an original song – won numerous first-place awards at tournaments all over the country, and he also spoke in front of many Tyler area civic organizations,” Hindman said.

“He was also the first and only student asked to give the TJC commencement speech at graduation. Chris has said that he credits his ability to be a performer in front of large crowds to the time he spent on the TJC forensics team.”

Chris Tomlin Day at TJC
Tomlin, a 1992 TJC graduate, will return to his TJC roots for a special presentation and performance on Thursday, Oct. 26.

Last year, the Legends of TJC program was created to honor the College’s most notable, living alumni.

“We have such a rich history here,” TJC President Dr. Mike Metke said. “What better way to celebrate that history than by recognizing our successful alumni? TJC provides a great foundation for our graduates to be successful in whatever field they choose, and we are proud to salute Chris Tomlin as a Legend of TJC. He truly epitomizes what TJC stands for.”

Tomlin will be honored in a ceremony Thursday, Oct. 26, on the TJC main campus. At 11:30 a.m., he will give an acoustic performance in Wise Auditorium for TJC faculty, staff and students. 

Tomlin recalls his TJC years
In a newspaper column a few years ago, Tomlin described the impact TJC had on his life:

“My scholarship counselor at TJC, Mary Beal, was such an influence on me. She was assigned to me and that was probably a scary job because I was coming into her office about every week with a new idea for what I wanted to become.

I thought at one time I would be a physical therapist; I thought I might be a counselor; I thought I might be a doctor. When I first came to TJC, in fact, I started out in the medical career path.

But some amazing things happened to me during those two years at TJC. I met some incredible people who really took the time to listen to me, to be patient with my indecisive nature and to encourage me.

I remember a speech class with Jacque Shackelford my first year. I’d never had a speech class like that and it was very interesting and it encouraged me to hone my communication skills.

So, Jacque and M’Liss Hindman, another speech and theatre teacher, encouraged me to join the forensics team, and I did. We traveled across the country, performing in forensics meets with bigger schools and with students from all over the U.S. It was a great experience for me and I think I improved with every trip. We won several awards and we just had a blast being together.

It was during that time that I really think I started to form my identity. I went to California for the first time and it was a little unbelievable, this country boy from Grand Saline, Texas – a couple thousand people and a salt mine – and I’m competing in this meet in California.”

Worship leader and musician
After TJC, Tomlin went on to earn his bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University in 1994, and then moved to Nashville to pursue a music career.

In 2005, he won his first Dove Award for excellence in Christian music when his Arriving album was named Praise and Worship Album of the Year. In 2006, he won five Dove awards, including Male Vocalist of the Year, Song of the Year and Album of the Year.

He also received the TJC Alumni Association’s Valuable Young Alumnus Award in 2006.

In 2007, he was again named Male Vocalist of the Year in addition to awards for Artist of the Year, Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year and Worship Song of the Year. In all, Tomlin and his band have won 19 Dove awards.

Tomlin and his band moved from Austin to Atlanta in 2008, to start a new church with Passion Conferences speaker Louie Giglio.

In 2012, he won a Grammy award for Best Contemporary Christian Album for his recording, “And If Our God Is For Us.”

Tomlin recently joined Garth Brooks, Justin Timberlake and Pitbull as the fourth artist in digital music history to receive the prestigious Sound Exchange Digital Radio Award for over 1 billion digital radio streams.

Affirming his lifetime calling to “write songs that help people worship God,” Tomlin continues to evolve in his musical leadership role for the nation with the recent inauguration of Worship Night in America events – unifying the church through an evening of worship through music and prayer.

Over the last few years, live Worship Night in America events have sold out historic venues like New York City’s Madison Square Garden and Denver’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre, and last year’s nationwide, theatrical broadcast sold over 60,000 tickets to viewings on more than 440 screens.

“The church has been leading with politics for too long,” Tomlin said. “The church’s place in the world is to lead with prayer. And one of music’s roles is to help us see more clearly through the fogginess of current events. Worship is much more about seeing than it is singing. Worship opens our eyes and helps us see the truth in our faith.”

Tomlin maintains an active touring and recording schedule. His parents, Connie and Donna Tomlin, still reside in his hometown of Grand Saline.

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