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Grammy Award-winning Gospel singer George Beverly Shea dies at age 104

Gospel singer and songwriter George Beverly Shea, long known for his singing at Billy Graham’s evangelistic crusades, has died in the US at the age of 104.

Mr Shea first sang for Graham on the Chicago radio hymn program, ‘Songs in the Night’, in 1943 and has since performed on every continent and in every US state.

PICTURE: Courtesy Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

A Grammy Award-winner, he was presented with a lifetime achievement award in 2011 and was also a member of the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame, the Religious Broadcasting Hall of Fame and the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists” “Hall of Faith”.

The Canadian born singer’s first public performance was in the choir at the church of his father, a Wesleyan minister. As well as his subsequent involvement in evangelistic crusades, radio and television programs in many countries, he sang at hundreds of concerts and recorded more than 70 albums. At age 23 he composed the music to one of his best known solos, ‘I”d Rather Have Jesus’.

Mr Shea, who died after a short illness, is survived by his wife, Karlene, and his children from his first marriage, Ronald and Elaine. His first wife, Erma, died in 1976.

Billy Graham, 10 years younger than Mr Shea paid tribute in a statement to the man he described as “one of his closest friends”.

“I first met Bev Shea while in Chicago when he was on Moody Radio,” he said. “As a young man starting my ministry, I asked Bev if he would join me. He said yes and for over 60 years we had the privilege of ministering together across the country and around the world. Bev was one of the most humble, gracious men I have ever known and one of my closest friends. I loved him as a brother. My prayer for his wife, Karlene, and his children, Ron and Elaine, is that God will strengthen them during this time.”

Billy Graham’s son, Franklin, recalled that while older than his father, Mr Shea “never acted his age”.

“He was absolute fun to be with. Bev was one of the most gracious and unassuming men I have known. He was always encouraging and supportive, a man of deep faith and strong commitment to Jesus Christ.”

In an interview conducted in February, 2011, Mr Shea recalled some his favorite memories including a trip to Australia.

“I went on a musical tour with Cliff Barrows and Ted Smith,” he said. “Never forget those times.”

Other stand-out memories included a 1966 trip to Vietnam and a 1973 trip to Korea.

“We were there for a week for a series of meetings in different places. The Sunday meeting was held at a black top area for wartime landing. They had the black top painted off in squares, and there were 4,500 people in a square. We had a total of 1,100,000 people there. We are on a platform 16 feet high, and I will never forget the image of all those people as I sang ‘How Great Thou Art’ with a 10,000 voice choir.”

His advice, as a long-time Christian, to other Christians, was simple: “Keep your devotions, study the Word, enjoy His presence, and learn from Him daily.”


21st April, 2013

Singer/songwriter George Beverly Shea will be laid to rest in North Carolina at 3pm local time on Sunday.

In a tribute issued late this week, Rev Dr Ross Clifford, president of the NSW Council of Churches, said his life was testimony “to the goodness of God and what God can do through a life fully devoted to his service”.

“Thousands of Australians will remember George accompanying Billy Graham at evangelistic crusades in Sydney and in other Australian cities, and hearing him on radio and vinyl records, and will have fond memories of his beautiful voice and his humble, gracious spirit,” he said.

The funeral service, which will be held in the town of Montreat, will be open to the public.





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