Longtime friends, evangelist Billy Graham, music director Cliff Barrows and gospel music legends Bill and Gloria Gaither attended the private event, hosted at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, N.C.
Testimonies during the program accented the humility and grace of the man often called “America’s Beloved Gospel Singer,” as well as his vital contribution to the work of evangelism for the Billy Graham Crusade team for more than 60 years.
“I’m deeply grateful to him,” said Mr. Graham during remarks at the event. “I count him as one of my closest friends and confidantes.”
Still in remarkably good health, the centenarian greeted well-wishers with a few words, and also took the opportunity to recite one of his favorite hymns, “The Shadow of a Cross,” in his familiar–and still strong and clear–bass-baritone voice. The scene was reminiscent of his unmistakable presence at Billy Graham Crusades over decades and in countries throughout the world.
In a gesture perfect for a musician, Mr. Shea was presented with a Rodgers organ, eventually to be used at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. Angola’s warden, Burl Cain, was in attendance at the celebration. Following a Franklin Graham Prison Festival at Angola in 2006, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association donated funds to build a chapel there that was dedicated in April 2008.
“I was overwhelmed that so many people were here tonight,” said Mr. Shea after the event. “And I never dreamed I would get a gift like this.”
“All these years, Daddy always said that a Crusade really began when Uncle Bev walked up to the mic and began to sing,” said Franklin Graham.
George Beverly Shea was born in Winchester, Ontario, February 1, 1909, the son of a minister. He first sang for Billy Graham on the Chicago radio hymn program, “Songs in the Night,” in 1943 and since then has carried the Gospel in song to every continent and every state in the country.
Mr. Shea is the recipient of ten Grammy nominations with one Grammy Award (1965) and is a member of the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame (1978). For his significant contributions to Gospel music, he was inducted into the Religious Broadcasting Hall of Fame (NRB) in February 1996.
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