“Sweet Songbird”


From the time that George D. Pyper helped his father raise silkworms in President Brigham Young’s cacoonery near the Eagle Gate in Salt Lake City, until he died in 1943, his life was filled with adventure and service to the Church. With the exception of the Prophet Joseph Smith, George was intimately acquainted with all of the presidents of the Church who served during his lifetime.

His friends called him Georgie as a boy and, for a time, he went to Brigham Young’s private school. The first job George had was herding his father’s cows southeast of the city. By the time he was fourteen, he was working as a police court clerk in Salt Lake City. Later, he became a judge, magazine editor, businessman, and for many years he managed the world-famous Salt Lake Theatre. He was a man with many talents.

While they were still boys, Georgie and his older brother, Robert, often sang at ward socials. In time George developed a beautiful tenor voice and sang in many operas and at more than a thousand funerals. Wherever he sang he so delighted his audiences that he was nicknamed “Utah’s Sweet Songbird.”

When George was only eight years old he received a book as an award of merit from his Sunday School. While still in his teens, he became ward Sunday School secretary. In 1897 he was called to be on the general Sunday School board of the Church and for many years he was a member of the superintendency of the board and its president for eight years.

Richard Ballantyne, who taught the first Sunday School for boys and girls in the Salt Lake Valley in a meetinghouse that he built himself, also taught George Pyper to enjoy Sunday School work. So, with love and appreciation for the service of Elder Ballantyne, George Pyper was responsible for the building of a monument in memory of that first Sunday School meetinghouse and its teacher.

If you are in Salt Lake City and pass Third South and Second West Streets, you can see the granite monument at the edge of the sidewalk on the northeast corner of the intersection.

At the funeral of George Dollinger Pyper in January, 1943, Elder David O. McKay said that his “beloved friend and associate had one of the most evenly balanced temperaments of all men I have ever known. From the center to the surface of his nature he was as genuine and pure as gold … He was always reserved, unpretentious, genial, modest, dignified; his advice wholesome, his judgment sound … He was open, loyal, true … generous himself, and in his judgment of others. Faithful to his word. … his friends, and to God.”