George Beverly Shea, the longtime soloist of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and one of the nation’s most beloved Gospel singers, has died.
Shea, of Montreat, NC, passed away following a brief illness. He was 104.
His booming baritone voice delivered the Gospel of Jesus Christ to millions of Christians at Billy Graham’s crusades. Shea was known for his trademark renditions of “How Great Thou Art” and “The Wonder of It All.”
“I first met Bev Shea while in Chicago when he was on Moody Radio,” said Billy Graham in a prepared statement. “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.”
Shea won a Grammy in 1965, was nominated 10 times and in 2011 he was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Shea first sang for Billy Graham in 1943 on the Chicago radio hymn program, “Songs in the Night.” Since that day, he sang Gospel songs on every continent and every station in the nation. He preceded Graham’s Crusade messages in nearly every meeting for more than a half century.
“Even though Bev was 10 years older than my father, he never acted his age,” said Franklin Graham. “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.”
She was born in Winchester, Ontario, Canada, where his father was a Wesleyan Methodist minister. Shea’s first public singing was in the choir of his father’s church. His career included hundreds of concerts and more than 70 albums of sacred music.
When Shea was 23 he composed the music to one of the nation’s most beloved hymns – “I’d Rather Have Jesus.”
Shea is survived by his wife, Karlene, and his children from his first marriage, Ronald and Elaine. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Erma, who died in 1976.