John Reuben Shannon ’54

John Reuben Shannon, 88, of Winston-Salem, NC, died surrounded by his family on November 27, 2021.

He was the husband of Sylvia Pullen Shannon for 65 years. Born December 28, 1932, John was the son of the late Reuben McPhaul Shannon and the late Rachel Elliott Shannon. In addition to his wife, he is survived by his sister, Rachel Moss, one daughter, Cynthia Shannon, and son, Michael Shannon, eight grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his youngest child, Stephanie Mannen.

Born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, Shannon graduated from Davidson College and earned his Ph.D. in musicology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Following graduate school, he became a professor of music at Sweet Briar College in Virginia, a position he held for almost 30 years.

In addition to music, Shannon had a love of building things and learning how things work. For several summers he organized a group of like-minded and -skilled professors to build houses. After Hurricane Camille decimated Amherst and Nelson counties, Virginia, in 1969, the group went in to help rebuild the area. This love of building led him to retire to Ocean Isle Beach in 1985 to pursue life as a contractor. However, he missed teaching and music so returned to the profession as organist and choirmaster at Garber United Methodist Church in New Bern, North Carolina. He held similar positions in North Carolina churches for the next 25 years.

Even after leaving contracting as an occupation, Shannon continued to help the community by building houses through Habitat for Humanity. He continued his love of teaching by leading classes on various topics at churches and at Salemtowne Retirement Community. Always striving to make the organ and its music accessible, he is the author of many books, among them, The Evolution of Organ Music in the 17th Century, a series of books on organ improvisation and Understanding the Pipe Organ.

A memorial service will be held on December 11, 2021, at 2:00 p.m. at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Winston-Salem. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be sent to the General Music Fund at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, the Salemtowne Residents Fund, Habitat for Humanity, or a charity of your choice. Online condolences may be made at

Published by Winston-Salem Journal on Dec. 5, 2021.