Monday, October 7, 2013

Remembering George Beverly Shea February 1, 1909 - April 16, 2013

O the wonder of it all!
The wonder of it all!
Just to think that God loves me.

O the Wonder of it all!
The wonder of it all!
Just to think that God loves me.

These are the words and music penned by the late George Beverly Shea so often heard on Billy Graham crusades all over the world.

George Beverly Shea was born in Ontario, Canada to a Wesleyan Methodist minister.  He was a very shy boy but displayed his musical gifts at a young age and performed in his father's church.  He began playing chords on his family's piano by the age of 5.  Shea said he became a Christian at the age of five or six but made a rededication to Christ at the age of 18.

One Sunday morning in 1926, Shea reluctantly was talked into singing a solo on a Sunday morning worship service and that was the beginning a lifelong career of displaying his baritone voice as a service to his Lord and Savior.  A few years later, when sitting down at the piano, he noticed a poem written by his mother and immediately the tune "I'd Rather Have Jesus" began to flow.  He would soon find himself performing his talents on Christian radio.

Shea became the staff announcer for the Moody Bible Institute's radio station.  It was during that time that he met the young Billy Graham.  Graham asked Shea to sing on his new radio program and the rest is history.  Billy Graham asked his friend to perform on crusades with him throughout the world.  Shea was also constantly composing songs along with singing hundreds of concerts.  Over the years, Shea received numerous honors and accolades including a Grammy award in 1965, a lifetime achievement award in 2011 and membership in the Gospel Music Association's Hall of Fame in 1978.  He was also the recipient of the Southern Baptist Evangelists Hall of Faith in 2008.  He was nominated for ten Grammy Awards.

George Beverly Shea has the distinction of having performed live before more people than anyone in history.  His largest performance was in 1973 during a meeting in Seoul South Korea in which 1.1 million people attended.

Shea authored a number of books including his autobiography "Then Sings My Soul"as well as "Songs that Lift the Heart" "How Sweet the Sound" and "Stories Behind 50 Southern Gospel Favorites" and also appeared in several films.  He was also the subject in the book, "George Beverly Shea: Tell Me the Story" written by Paul Davis.

George Shea funeral and special casket
Billy Graham said of Shea "Bev was the very first person I asked to join me in evangelism.  It was God who brought us together.  Bev will always be remembered as "America's beloved Gospel singer, whose rich bass-baritone voice touched the hearts of millions in our Crusades and through his recordings.  I have sometimes said that I would feel lost getting up to preach if Bev were not there to prepare the way through an appropriate song.  But I will always be grateful not only for his musical contributions to our Crusades but also for his warm spirit and his personal friendship over the years."

George Beverly Shea died on April 16, 2013 at the age of 104 following complications from a stroke.

George Shea's program and card
Shea's funeral was attended by nearly 1000 people including Billy Graham at the Anderson Auditorium in Montreat, North Carolina (funeral program pictured).  He was laid to rest in an Angola casket made by the inmates of the Louisiana State Penitentiary.  Warden Burl Cain from the penitentiary attended and was quoted as saying "I thought it was the most incredible funeral.  It was just a great celebration of
someone's life."Among those who eulogized Shea was Cliff Barrows of the Billy Graham ministry.  Several of Shea's recorded music were
played during the service.

Shea was laid to rest on the grounds of the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina.
George Beverly Shea's resting place at Billy Graham library

No comments:

Post a Comment