News footage shows friends and family singing hymns at the rock star's gravesite at the Oakwood Memorial Gardens on Wednesday

By Ashley Boucher
May 20, 2020 08:35 PM
Little Richard
| Credit: Theo Wargo/WireImage for Consilium Ventures

A private funeral was held Wednesday for rock and roll legend Little Richard, who died on May 9 of bone cancer at the age of 87.

The short funeral service — held at the "Good Golly Miss Molly" singer's alma mater, Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama, on Wednesday at 11 a.m. — opened with a reading of a passage from 1 Corinthians, according to footage shared on Facebook by an OU professor.

Oakwood University president Leslie Pollard then addressed the small crowd of Richard's family, close friends and former band mates.

The service continued with a musical selection from Dr. Janice Browne; words of comfort from Benjamin Browne, the former president of the South Central Conference of the Seventh-Day Adventist church in Tennessee; a song from Richard's niece Brandie Inez Sutton; and a eulogy delivered by Joseph W. McCoy, an S.D.A. pastor in Alabama, according to a copy of the program shared on Facebook.

The service concluded with a collective singing of the hymn "Blessed Assurance" and closing remarks from Furman F. Forham II, another S.D.A. pastor, before the graveside portion of the service, the program showed.

Little Richard
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Several attendees wore face masks to protect against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), and guests and media present were reportedly encouraged to practice social distancing.

News footage of the event shows a small crowd gathering around his gravesite to sing hymns in front of three white crosses after the service.

Prior to the official program, Richard's casket was taken on a procession around the university's campus, WAFF 48 reported Wednesday.

Speakers during the service acknowledged not only Richard's legendary music career that spanned decades and touched multiple generations, but also spoke about his fierce loyalty to those he loved.

Little Richard
| Credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

"It's amazing today, after all of these years, to see their love for him, and his love for them," Pollard said of Richard's band members present at the ceremony, who were given a round of applause, the footage shared on Facebook showed.

"Individually, and collectively, he would do just above and beyond to show he loved and cared for each one of us," one of Richard's former bandmates told WAFF 48 after the ceremony.

"Every conversation, I learned something," another bandmate said. "Even when I didn't call to learn anything."

Richard's agent of 40 years, Dick Alen, told PEOPLE in a statement on May 9 that the singer had died.

"Little Richard passed away this morning from bone cancer in Nashville. He was living with his brother in Nashville," the statement said.

"He was battling for a good while, many years," Alen said. "I last spoke to him about two or three weeks ago. I knew he wasn’t well but he never really got into it, he just would say 'I’m not well.' He’s been suffering for many years with various aches and pains. He just wouldn’t talk about it much."