Footprints in the sand
One of the world's most famous inspirational poem
In March 1997, we posted the story of "Footprints in the Sand" on WOW Zone, and a worldwide blitz of independent investigation and reporting began.
We receive letters of appreciation as well as letters with more information regularly. Everything that we can verify is posted, and nearly eight years later, more and new information keeps coming in.
As of May 2005, there are now four (4) versions and three authors of the poem, written at different times.
Three versions can be read here: Footprints in the Sand.
A statement and another version by Burrell Webb can be read here: Footprints
Following is a chronological order of what we have discovered so far regarding one of the world's most inspirational poems.
posted: March 4, 1997
Chances are good youve read Footprints in the Sand sometime in your life, on a greeting card, plaque, T-shirt or postcard. Chances are also good the youve noticed it is nearly always signed Author Unknown.
But thats not true, as Kathy Bee of Bellflower tells it.
Bee, whose real name is Kathy B. Hampton, is a singer-songwriter who has in her possession what she believes is a dated original copy of the inspirational poem, loaned to her by a woman who says she is the author. Its edges are torn, and you can barely read parts of the backhanded, penciled handwriting, dated 1939 and signed Mary Stevenson.
It is something the 42 year-old mother of two would like to share with the world. I want people to know about Mary, says the woman who is like a daughter to the ailing Stevenson, 74. And I want to prove shes the author before she dies.
Bee met Stevenson while appearing at The Palomino nightclub in North Hollywood back in 1979. Stevenson was in the audience, and after the performance, invited Bee to her home for dinner.
At Stevensons Buena Park house, Bee remarked that she particularly liked one of the many poems hanging on her wall. Mary said, Oh, you like that? Ive got plenty more, Bee recalls, and she went into a bedroom, brought a box and dumped it on the table.
There must have been hundreds of poems, Bee says, and as I went through them, I discovered the 1939 copy of Footprints.
Bee was flabbergasted, and pulled out a little card to show Stevenson. On it was Stevensons famous poem, something Bees mother had given her before she went on the road.
Bee had seen it in every truck stop on tour, but never thought shed meet the author. Or hear the story of how it was first written on a piece of scratch paper in 1936 by a poor and abused 14-year-old, while locked outside in the cold on the front porch of her childhood home in Chester, PA.
Stevenson, who says she is a descendant of Robert Louis Stevenson, told Bee how it broke her heart to see it in the public domain, signed Author Unknown
As a young girl with a strong spiritual side, Stevenson had never thought about copyrights. And she couldnt have afforded one if she had. She just enjoyed sharing her work, passing out hundreds of handwritten copies to anyone who asked, including every chorus girl she met during her days as a follies dancer at the Troc theater in Philadelphia. That night at Stevensons house Bee decided to do all she could for the woman.
I encouraged her to copyright Footprints in 1984. And I wrote music to one of her poems about child abuse, which won Song of the Year from the California Country Music Association in 1986. We gave the proceeds from my concerts to child abuse agencies.
Since then, author Gail Giorgio has written a book titled Footprints in the Sand, which chronicles the Stevensons difficult life. and Marla Maples Trump, a long-time fan of Stevenson, obtained the movie rights for a TV film.
Theres just one hitch.
Over the years, many have challenged Stevensons authorship, one of them a Canadian woman who claims to have written the poem in 1964.
Thats impossible, if you believe Stevensons handwritten copy to be authentic, and author Giorgios 1958 diary entry that says Footprints is her favorite poem.
But Marla wont produce the movie until we get a lawyer to prove it, says Bee, who has hired an attorney who aims to strengthen Stevensons case with additional pre-1964 copies of the poem or signed affidavits from people who recall seeing it before then.
Meanwhile, Stevenson, mother of two sons and author of thousands of poems, lies in a nursing home in Las Vegas, suffering from heart and respiratory problems.
Shes gone into complete respiratory failure four times. Each time I tell her, Dont go away yet. We need you, and she comes out of it, says Bee, who has spent the last two decades telling everyone she knows about her friends struggle.
Mary has the greatest faith Ive ever seen, Bee says. Its a child-like faith, and I believe it has kept her alive.
Ive seen the original copy of Footprints, and it would be hard to believe that the young Stevenson, who lost her mother and brother as a child, did not pen the faded words for inspiration back in 1939.
It still makes her smile, Bee says, that others find inspiration in the old poem.
Bee asks that those who have pre-1964 copies of it, or are certain they saw it before then, call her.
I just hope somebody out there can help us, she says.
In March 1997, we contacted Kathy Bee. She responded by saying that she was setting up her own website and more information could be found there. It has since been taken down and restarted several times. According to Basil Zangare, Mary Stevenson's son, it's because of a continued court case between himself and Kathy Bee. You can read more about it in his statement, which was sent to us in May 2003, and is listed chronologically below.
In April 1997, we were in touch with Ruth and Steve White, who were also very excited about helping Mary Stevenson prove her authorship of "Footprints in the Sand". They were kind enough to give us updates or whatever information they had.
May 6th, 1997; Letter from Steve White, President, "A Place for Us"
I wanted you to know that Kathy Bee had the copy of "Footprints In the Sand" which was given to her by Mary Stevenson evaluated by a forensics expert. The expert said that the poem is the Real Thing!! I guess what that means is that it IS actually as old as Mary SAYS it is. WOW, that's quite a victory!!!
July 9th, 1997: Racial Harmony Award. Letter from Steve White.
We are honoring Mary Stevenson (author of "Footprints in the Sand") with our Racial Harmony Lifetime Achievement Award in Hollywood, at our "Unity Under the Stars" Racial Harmony Hall of Fame Banquet, August 9th, 1997.
The reason why we are giving this Lifetime Achievement Award to Mary Stevenson is because she (like Leeza Gibbons and Montel Williams, who are receiving Racial Harmony Hall of Fame Awards that same night) has promoted Racial Understanding and Harmony all her life. Earlier in her life, Ms. Stevenson could have been lynched for taking this stand.
A little about "A Place For Us"
We've been promoting racial harmony in a variety of ways since 1984. We've done a great deal of writing and speaking, counseling (family and individual), and have even performed several marriages! (we're ordained non-denominational Christian ministers). We're recognized Media Experts on interracial topics, and have appeared on most of the TV talk shows, and in a great deal of newspaper and magazine print. We've addressed elementary school kids all the way up to College classes and Teacher-Training classes. We've debated with the Nation of Islam, the National Assoc. of Black Social Workers, and the Grand Dragon of the KKK. Ruth (my wife) debated David Duke during his visit to California to speak about Proposition 209.
In Loving Memory
In September 2002, we received a very interesting letter from a lady who knows Mary Stevenson's son. She gave us his email, and advised us to get in touch with him, to learn about an amazing story that sounds stranger than fiction.
We got in touch with Basil Zangare, Mary Stevenson's son, who told us a very sad story indeed. It appears that the relationship between Mary Stevenson and Kathy Bee Hampton was not as wonderful as it had been written about in the story above. Basil and Kathy Bee are in a long legal battle, and he needed time to prepare a statement for us to post that his legal council would allow.
In the summer of 2003, we received an email from a gentleman who claimed that he had seen the original handwritten poem as written by Margaret Fishback Powers, who also claims to be the author of "Footprints", and has even written a book about it.
Naturally, since the gentleman said that he is a good friend of Ms. Powers, we asked him to let her know about this page, so that she may provide a statement for our readers. He replied that any questions should be directed to Ms. Power's publisher. We did not follow up on that, and we never heard from anybody from Ms. Powers' side again. - UPDATE - Margaret Fishback Powers Speaks Out: See December 2004.
In December 2003, we received this stunning email from Carolyn Carty:
Mary Stevenson's version of "Footprints in the Sand" fell into public domain, however the "Footprints" that I authored is different than Mary's and I in fact am copyrighted. The Library of Congress would never have issued me a certificate of registration of ownership if it was in the public domain. All copyrights implied are applicable according to copyright law.
Footprints was my Contribution to Society. My authorship was and is anonymous. I have been trying to give people the opportunity to correct the discrepancies by making them aware of this. Many have made millions and even billions of dollars from something that was notably made popular. It only came to my attention in May of 2003 that others were not only claiming authorship, but they were putting their names on it as well and collecting money that does not belong to them.
Footprints was not made for profiteering. Footprints was written to inspire awe of the Lord, in hopes that people would seek its guidance and turn towards the Holy Bible with inspiration that it would encourage people to learn the word of faith as it was actually written. I have studied a number of religions. I believe there are common bonds in life that should encourage us towards a peaceful future based on the religious belief of God. I was raised a Christian, yet I support all religions. People have that right to believe whatever they want. Life has showed me that it all leads back to God no matter what we worship and that Gods strength and wisdom is often greater than our own.
On November 29, 2004, we received the following email:
Dear Ms. Colombo:
We are copyright counsel to Margaret Fishback Powers, the author of the famous "Footprints in the Sand" poem. We have seen your website, www.wowzone.com, and our client would like her opportunity to comment on the matter.
Mrs. Powers has authored numerous Christian poems and songs over the past thirty-nine years as part of her ministry. Her works included the well-known poem, "I Had a Dream," also known as "Footprints in the Sand," which she wrote on Canadian Thanksgiving weekend in 1964. Mrs. Powers wrote the poem at Echo Lake Youth Camp in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. The story behind the poem was published by Harper Collins in Footprints, the True Story Behind the Poem that Inspired Millions, by Mrs. Powers. In 1980, in Hamilton Bermuda, Mrs. Powers published a book of her collected poems, including "I Had a Dream," under the title From Heart to Heart. She has registered the copyright in the United States and Canada in "I Had a Dream" as part of her collection of poems in From Heart to Heart and as a separate derivative work. As owner of the copyright, Mrs. Powers has the exclusive right to reproduce, adapt, and publicly distribute the poem "I Had a Dream," and to authorize and license others to do so.
The power of this poem has touched many and as a result, it has become very popular. Unfortunately, many have sought to improperly claim rights to Mrs. Powers for their own personal gain. Further, while others claim that the poem is in the "public domain" or that their version of the poem is different and thus not subject to Mrs. Powers' permission, these claims are untrue factually and under the international copyright laws. The fact that one person may have a registration from the Copyright Office for a work that incorporates Mrs. Powers' poem does not confer rights in the poem - the Copyright Office does not investigate the validity of the claim of authorship or search prior registrations for similar works, unlike the Patent and Trademark Office. While Mrs. Powers understands others' desires to pass on the important message contained in her work, she requests that no one create copies or derivative works of her poem without her permission.
Thank you for your assistance in bringing the truth behind this matter to light.
Very truly yours,
Partners in charge of matters for Mrs. Powers:
John A. Hughes, Esq.
Elizabeth R. Gosse, Esq.
UPDATE May 2005
Statement and version by Burrell Webb
NOTE FROM WOW ZONE
When we originally posted the "Footprints" story in 1997, we never expected that it would lead to so much confusion. Our goal was to help find the true author, because so many people in the world are interested in this poem. Sadly, it appears that we're no closer to that goal now than we were then. Although we helped reunite dozens of authors with their work, and we exposed several stories that were not real, the story about "Footprints" is the most popular and most mysterious of all.
Since the third person who claims to be the author, Carolyn Carty, wrote to us in December 2003, she has been very busy letting the world know who she is, after years of Anonymity. If you visit our Open Forum, you may have seen several of her posts.
Exactly one year later, we received the letter from the Copyright Lawyers for Margaret Fishback Powers. Meanwhile, since 1997, we have posted what was then provided as evidence: the forensics reports that confirmed that Mary Stevenson was the Author.
Frankly, we don't know what to make of it. We just report what we're told by the sources themselves.
We considered taking the story down to avoid further complications, but we are constantly reminded by visitors and researchers alike that WOW Zone is the only major website that has the full story, WITHOUT any vested interest in the poem. In fact, when we did take it down for a brief period, we were barraged with emails and telephone calls from all over the world. People said we had an obligation to the public to keep them updated, so posted it again.
The story of "Footprints in the Sand" is on our site and we update it whenever necessary as a public service, notwithstanding our regret that one of the most beautiful inspirational poem ever written has such a sad story behind it.
Special thanks to everybody who contributed to this story through the years.
Wishing Only Well,
Last update: May 2005
All three versions can be read here: Footprints in the Sand.
May 2005 - Statement and version by Burrell Webb
It can be sung to the tune 'Londonderry Air/O Danny Boy'.
Could this be the inspiration behind Footprints in the Sand"?
A walk with God - Ron Wright's unique take on the famous "Footprints" poem
Footprints - The New Version
Footprints in your heart
Butt prints in the sand
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The address of this update page for "Footprints in the Sand" is www.wowzone.com/fpnews.htm