Best known for writing the lyrics to My Country, 'Tis of Thee. He titled it America. He was also a Baptist minister.
He was an editor for Baptist Missionary Magazine.
He was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.
He married Mary White Smith in 1834 with whom he had six children. He was a foster father to businessman and writer Thornton Chase for four of Chase's teenage years.
His first verse of America was quoted by Martin Luther King Jr. near the end of his I Have a Dream speech.