Story behind the song: ‘The Lighthouse’

One of the most notable landmarks in Northeast Florida is the St. Augustine Lighthouse.


It majestically rises 165 feet on the horizon and for 142 years has been a beacon of safety for those sailing on the sea.

Each time I exit our little community and turn my car toward the oldest city in America, the most captivating thing in sight is the lighthouse. With those things in mind, Ronnie Hinson’s account of the writing of his famous song is much more intriguing.

Several years ago, Hinson told me the story behind his famous song, “The Lighthouse.”

In their teen years, Ronnie along with his brothers, Kenny and Larry, and their sister, Yvonne, often sang as a mixed quartet in their home church in Freedom, California. They became known as The Singing Hinson Family and were invited to present their music at various other locations.

Ronnie said, “On several occasions we were invited to be the ‘warm-up singers’ at concerts when famous groups would come to sing in our area. We would sing while the crowds were gathering to hear the celebrity guests. We usually sang our simple ‘arrangements’ of songs we had chosen from the church hymnal.”

“On one occasion, in 1971, we were in a large, empty church building preparing for a concert. We had worked for hours practicing songs from the hymnal and were becoming exhausted and discouraged. At that point I said to the group, ‘I am going downstairs to the boys’ room. I’ll be back.’ While there, I picked up a roll of toilet tissue and began to write song lyrics on it. I went back upstairs and showed the group what I had written. One of my brothers snatched it from me and threw it into the waste can.”

“As we continued to struggle in our practicing and preparation — it was nearing dawn outside — suddenly one of my brothers retrieved the toilet tissue from the waste can and placed it on the practice stand. He said, ‘I have an idea.’ He began to sing and we joined in. We, for the first time sang ‘The Lighthouse.’ Suddenly, it seemed as bright as noonday in the auditorium.

“There’s a lighthouse on the hillside that overlooks life’s sea.

When I’m tossed it sends out a light that I might see.

And the light that shines in darkness now will safely lead me home,

If it wasn’t for the lighthouse, my ship would sail no more.”


“And I thank God for the lighthouse; I owe my life to him.

Jesus is the lighthouse and from the rocks of sin,

He has shown the light around me, so that I might clearly see.

If it wasn’t for the lighthouse, where would this ship be?”

“The first time we presented the song to a live audience it was very warmly received. Some would say ‘it took off.’ At this point in time — some 40 years later — it would be difficult to find anyone, among those familiar with Christian songs, who has not heard ‘The Lighthouse.’”

In the beginning of this story, it was stated that the Hinsons lived in Freedom, California. Their town was relatively close to the Pacific Ocean.

However, Ronnie had never actually seen a lighthouse and was puzzled that the song caused such a stir.

He decided to ride his bicycle from Freedom to the sea, to find a lighthouse. When he came near to the water’s edge he parked his bicycle, climbed upon a sand dune and for the first time in his life saw a lighthouse — the Pigeon Point Lighthouse.

He told me he just sat there and said, “What a picture! What a scene!”

“Then spake Jesus … I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8:12

To contact Lindsay Terry, email