The late Dr. Rankin, president of Howard University, Washington, D. C., said regarding this oft used parting hymn: ”Written in 1882 as a Christian good-bye, it was called forth by no person or occasion, but was deliberately composed as a Christian hymn on the basis of the etymology of ' good-bye,' which is ' God be with you.' The first stanza was written and sent to two composers—one of unusual note, the other wholly unknown and not thoroughly educated in music. I selected the composition of the latter, submitted it to J. W. Bischoff—the musical director of a little book we were preparing—who approved of it, but made some criticisms, which were adopted. It was sung for the first time one evening in the First Congregational Church in Washington, of which I was then the pastor and Mr. Bischoff the organist. I attributed its popularity in no little part to the music to which it was set. It was a wedding of words and music, at which it was my function to preside; but Mr. Tomer should have his full share of the family honor."
William Gould Tomer, the author of the music, is of German ancestry. He has been a school teacher, a soldier in the civil war, and a clerk in the Treasury department. He was teaching school in 1882 when he wrote the music of ”God be with you."