The 86-year-old received the coveted acknowledgment from country standout Jimmie Allen, who made a point to note that his existence in country music wouldn’t have happened if not for Pride paving the way.
Allen, 34, tweeted ahead of the program and described Pride in four words: “Fearless, Inspiration, Courageous, Pioneer.”
Right before accepting his award, Pride, a former professional baseball player for the Memphis Red Sox and Birmingham Black Barons in the Negro Leagues from 1953 to 1958, took the stage to perform his most-famous record “Kiss an Angel Good Morning” and was joined by Allen for a touching duet.
Pride would reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 29 times, while his tunes landed him 52 top 10 hits.
“Well, you might not believe but I’m nervous as can be,” Pride said while accepting his hardware, quipping that he just “wanted to look at it.”
“All the people have been influenced by my life, what my life has been influenced by, I got to say something about some of them. This man I’ve always been awed by, and I still am,” Pride raved of the late Jack Clement. “My wife Roseanne and I would go and visit him. In fact, last time we visited before he passed away. He always said, ‘Roseanne, you’re so pretty.’ I never have forgotten that.”
Pride also thanked Jerry Bradley and John Daines, who served as Pride’s road manager for nearly 40 years.
“All my fans, I want to say thank you,” said Pride. “Well, I’m through talking. I just want to thank everybody again. Like I said, I’m nervous.”
Meanwhile, Allen performed his hit song “Best Shot” before presenting the award to Pride.
Jimmie Allen and Charley Pride at the 2020 CMA Awards. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for CMA)
In a video diary Allen shot ahead of the awards, he extended his appreciation to Pride for breaking through stereotypes during and after the civil rights era.
“If there was no Charley Pride, there wouldn’t be Darius (Rucker), me, Kane (Brown), Mickey (Guyton), Cowboy Troy and any other Black country artist that’s on their way right now,” Allen told a radio DJ.