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Friday, January 30, 2009

America’s ’Beloved Gospel Singer,’ George Beverly Shea, to Celebrate 100th Birthday
Billy Graham Crusade Soloist to be Honored at Private Gathering

By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA (ANS) -- George Beverly Shea, the award-winning baritone who is often described as "America's Beloved Gospel Singer," will celebrate his 100th birthday early next week.

A dapper and dashing Bev Shea in his younger years.

For decades he was a fixture on the Billy Graham Crusade stage and on televisions in living rooms around the country. Now, George Beverly Shea, popularly known as 'Bev', will reach a new milestone in his storied life -- the century mark.

Bev Shea will celebrate his 100th birthday on Sunday, February 1. One day later, he will be the guest of honor during a special private gathering of family and friends at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, North Carolina.

"On the ladder of life, I have reached rung 100, and I can see the scenery a little better than those who are still climbing," said Bev Shea of his 100th birthday.

In 2008, at the age of 99, Bev Shea continued to perform in front of large audiences, taking part in Franklin Graham's Festivals in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Charleston, South Carolina.

In the past few years, Bev has ministered alongside a third generation of Grahams by performing at Will Graham Celebrations in Gastonia, North Carolina, and Paducah, Kentucky.

Born in Winchester, Ontario, February 1, 1909, where his father was a Wesleyan Methodist minister, Bev Shea's first public singing was in the choir of his father's church. Later, he sang with the Houghton (N.Y.) College Glee Club.

Since George Beverly Shea first sang for Billy Graham on the Chicago radio hymn program, "Songs in the Night," in 1943, he has carried the Gospel in song to every continent and every state in the Union. He is the recipient of ten Grammy nominations, one Grammy Award (1965) and is a member of the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame (1978).

As the musical mainstay in Mr. Graham's crusades, Bev Shea is often called "America's Beloved Gospel Singer." However, he cannot be claimed by any one country -- a Canadian by birth, he is a favorite of people in many nations.

Through the years, Bev has been one of the busiest men on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Team. Between crusade, radio, and television dates in many countries, he has sung hundreds of concerts and recorded more than 70 albums of sacred music -- including nine CDs.

Every hymn he sings is a testimony to the saving power of Jesus Christ and to Shea's faith in Him. He is a noteworthy composer, and the songs he has written incorporate the same message. He composed the music at age 23 to one of his best-known solos, "I'd Rather Have Jesus," to words by Mrs. Rhea H. Miller.

The poem had been left on the family piano by Shea's mother, and after reading the words he sat at the piano and composed the tune. He also wrote "The Wonder of It All," "Sing Me A Song of Sharon's Rose," and "I Love Thy Presence, Lord." His most recent CD, entitled "Out In The Country," was released by Homeland Records.

Bev Shea has utilized all available media to share the "Good News" of Jesus Christ. From 1952, he was heard regularly on network radio, and in more recent years his bass-baritone voice has been transmitted on weekly shortwave programs around the world.

Bev Shea's network radio singing started on "Club Time," a program carried for more than eight years on ABC, the Armed Forces network, and many independent stations. When Billy Graham, then pastor of the Village Church in Western Springs, Illinois, took over the "Songs in the Night" radio program on Chicago's WCFL in 1943, he recalled hearing Shea's radio singing and enlisted him to help with the broadcast.

That was the beginning of a long association between Mr. Graham and Bev Shea. In 1947 Shea went to Graham's hometown, Charlotte, North Carolina, to sing in the first of Mr. Graham's city-wide crusades.

The fledgling evangelistic team worked together in several other crusades, and in 1949 the famous Los Angeles tent meetings catapulted Mr. Graham and his associates to national attention. From there, the team went on to share the Gospel on every continent.

Because of Bev Shea's weekly singing on the "Hour of Decision" radio broadcast since 1950 and his numerous personal appearances, his voice is recognized now in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, South America, and throughout North America.

Since the beginning of Mr. Graham's crusade ministry, Shea and Cliff Barrows have been the nucleus of the crusade musical team. Barrows is choir director, platform emcee, and radio-television program director. They were joined in 1950 by pianist Tedd Smith, and through the years, organists Don Hustad and John Innes have provided additional accompaniment.

Bev Shea is noted for the simplicity of his faith and testimony. To him, compromise is unthinkable. All his life and work is aimed at telling "of the Christ who died for me." A man of deep sympathies, he will listen endlessly to the troubles of others but dismiss his own with a word and a smile.

Cover artwork for Then Sings My Soul music album

For his significant contributions to Gospel music, he was inducted into the Religious Broadcasting Hall of Fame (NRB) in February 1996, and the Gospel Music Hall of Fame by the Gospel Music Association in 1978. He has been nominated for 10 Grammy Awards, winning one in 1965. As a special honor, in 1998 the North Carolina Public Television Station produced Bev Shea's life story, "The Wonder of it All," titled after one of his most popular gospel songs.

Bev and his wife, Karlene, make their home in North Carolina.

"Bev was the very first person I asked to join me in evangelism. 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," Billy Graham has said, ading: "I've been listening to Bev Shea sing for more than 50 years, and I would still rather hear him sing than anyone else I know.

"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."

Bev holds the world record for singing to the most people in
person, having had a career in network radio beginning in the 1920s, and reaching hundreds of millions through Billy Graham's worldwide Crusades.

George Beverly Shea Biography

BORN: George Beverly Shea; February 1, 1909; Winchester, Ontario, Canada

PARENTS: The Reverend A. J. Shea and Maude Whitney Shea (both deceased)

MARRIED: Karlene Aceto

EDUCATION: Annesley College, Ottawa, Ontario
1928-29: Houghton College, Houghton, New York

1929-38: Radio Broadcasting (singing on WMCA & WHN) as an avocation while working as a clerk in the headquarters office of Mutual of New York insurance company
1938-44: Announcer and staff soloist, WMBI, Chicago
1944-52: Soloist on ABC's "Club Time"
1947 - present: Soloist, Billy Graham Team
1950 - present: Soloist on the "Hour of Decision"
1951 - present: Recording artist with RCA and Word Records (more than 70 Albums of hymns, including nine CDs)

1956: Doctor of Fine Arts, Houghton College, Houghton, New York
1965: Grammy Award, sacred category, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, for album "Southland Favorites" with Anita Kerr Singers; Ten nominations
1972: Doctor of Sacred Music, Trinity College, Deerfield, Illinois
1978: Elected to Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame, Nashville
1996: Elected to Religious Broadcasting Hall of Fame (NRB)
1998: North Carolina Public Television produced his life story, "The Wonder of it All"

1968: "Then Sings My Soul," autobiography, Fleming Revell Company
1972: "Songs That Lift the Heart," about his favorite songs, Fleming Revell Company
1984: "Then Sings My Soul," Film Musical/Documentary, World Wide Pictures
2004: "How Sweet the Sound," Tyndale House Publishers

HOBBIES: Boating

CHILDREN: Ronald and Elaine

RESIDENCE: North Carolina

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) proclaims the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ throughout the world by every effective means

From its headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, BGEA runs a wide range of domestic and international evangelism ministries, including: large-scale Festivals led by evangelists Franklin Graham and Will Graham; Dare to Be a Daniel, a youth evangelism training project; My Hope World Evangelism Through Television; the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, offering the hope of Jesus Christ in the midst of tragedy; and many others through print, television, telephone, radio and
the Internet.

For more information, please visit .

** Michael Ireland, Chief Correspondent of ANS, is an international British freelance journalist who was formerly a reporter with a London (United Kingdom) newspaper and has been a frequent contributor to UCB Europe, a British Christian radio station. Michael has traveled to Albania and the former Yugoslavia, Holland, Germany and the former Czechoslovakia, Israel,and Canada. He has reported for ANS from Jordan, China, Russia, Jamaica, Mexico, and Nicaragua. Michael's volunteer involvement with ASSIST News Service is a sponsored ministry department -- Michael Ireland Media Missionary (MIMM) -- of A.C.T. International at: Artists in Christian Testimony (A.C.T.) International.

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