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William E. ‘Pete’ Bailey, Baltimore founder of Bailey Gospel Singers, dies

William E. “Pete” Bailey died Jan. 10 of undetermined causes at his Sandtown-Winchester home at the age of 74.
William E. “Pete” Bailey died Jan. 10 of undetermined causes at his Sandtown-Winchester home at the age of 74. (Handout / HANDOUT)

William E. “Pete” Bailey, a former steelworker and gospel singer who was the founder of Bailey Gospel Singers, died Jan. 10 at his Sandtown-Winchester home. He was 74.

No cause of death was immediately available, family members said.

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William Ellis Bailey, son of Odell Bailey, a steelworker and gospel singer, and his wife, Hattie Louise Bailey, an evangelist, was born in Baltimore, the fourth child of nine, and raised in Sandtown-Winchester.

After graduating from Carver Vocational-Technical High School, Mr. Bailey, who was known as “Pete” or “Pete Bond,” went to work as a rigger at Bethlehem Steel Corp.’s Sparrows Point plant.

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He later was the owner of Pete’s Confectionery and Convenience Store on Baker Street and then established Bailey’s Home Improvement and Construction, whose components also included a roofing and cable installation company.

At the time of his 1998 retirement, he was working for J.C. HVAC.

But it was gospel music that came to define his life. He had been introduced to it at an early age when he joined his father’s gospel group.

Mr. Bailey, a tenor, left his father’s group and began performing with the Greater Baltimore Community Choir and the Mount Olive Baptist Church choir. He then joined the popular Baltimore Echoes, a gospel group, with which he maintained a close relationship until his death, family members said.

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In 1980, Mr. Bailey and his then wife, the former Carolyn Thompson, established the Bailey Gospel Singers, in which they were joined by their son, Brian Bailey, and the late Nelson Fortune, who was a well-known Baltimore gospel singer. In the late 1980s, Mr. Bailey became a solo gospel performer.

“His motto was ‘Dump the house and dance the holy dance,’” said a son, Brian Bailey of Bowie.

He had been a member of St. Mark Baptist Church and at his death was a member of First Bethel Baptist Church in Upper Marlboro.

An accomplished boxer, Mr. Bailey enjoyed watching sporting events and westerns on TV as well as daily sermons.

His wife, the former Sandra Fields, whom he married in 2017, died that year.

Funeral services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Parklane Baptist Church, 3606 Mohawk Ave., Forest Park, with interment at King Memorial Park.

Mr. Bailey is survived by another son, James Guy of Baltimore; four daughters, Melanie Kilson and Rosalyn Mabry, both of Baltimore, Shannon Bailey of Frederick and Veronica Adams of York, Pennsylvania; a sister, Lillie Bailey of Baltimore; 15 grandchildren; and 14 great-grandchildren. His first marriage ended in divorce.

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