Beloved Graham-Crusade Singer Turns 100

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George Beverly Shea, the Christian bass singer whose voice rang over Rev. Billy Graham's gospel crusades for more than 60 years, will be a century old Feb. 1.

Just days before his 100th birthday, Shea said he'd seen the world change but wanted to see more change among the people.

"Some struggle with the call of the Spirit on their life. Others are denominationally minded," Shea said.

For those discouraged now, he added, "I say, tell them to turn toward Him and to take comfort from the message of the Gospel."

A Meeting with 'Bev'

Though Canadian-born, Shea has often been called "America's beloved gospel singer." His signature songs include "How Great Thou Art" and "I'd Rather Have Jesus."

Shea first sang for Graham's Chicago radio program, "Songs in the Night," in 1943. Four years later, 'Bev' - as Graham called him - joined the preacher for his first crusade in Charlotte, N.C.

"It was God who brought us together," Graham once said. "His rich, bass baritone voice has touched the hearts of millions in our Crusades… I don't believe I've ever heard him utter an unkind or critical word about anyone."

Over the decades, Shea has sung for more than 200 million people at the Billy Graham Crusades - the largest crowd anyone has ever sung to in person.

"I occasionally wearied of packing and unpacking," Shea said about the constant traveling. "But the Crusades never became commonplace. Watching people respond to the message and come down those aisles to meet the Savior moved me profoundly every single time."

North Carolina Celebrates

Between crusades and radio and television appearances, Shea also recorded some 70 albums and 500 solos, earning him 10 Grammy nominations. In 1965, he won a Grammy for Best Inspirational Performance.

Shea has lived in North Carolina with his wife, Karlene, since 1947.  North Carolina's public television network, UNC-TV, will tape a musical special in his honor March 28.

The show, "Happy 100th: A Musical Tribute to George Beverly Shea," will air later this year. 

A party and a concert, will also be held in the Asheville, N.C. area, on his birthday, Feb. 1.  Click here to send George Beverly Shea a birrthday wish.

Sources:, Christianity Today, Charlotte Observer, Asheville Citizen-Times

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