He once shared with me how his late wife, Billie, sent him a “Valentine’s Card from Heaven”
By Dan Wooding, Founder of the ASSIST News Service
CHARLOTTE, NC (ANS – November 16, 2016) – Longtime Billy Graham associate, Clifford (Cliff) Burton Barrows, 93, of Marvin, North Carolina, died on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016, at Carolinas Medical Center, in Pineville following a short illness.
For more than 60 years, Cliff Barrows was one of the most vital components — and most recognized faces and voices — of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s worldwide ministry. He was best known as the music and program director of the BGEA, who put together choirs and conducted the music and the congregational singing during Billy Graham’s numerous crusades around the world.
He was born on April 6, 1923, in Ceres, Calif., the son of Harriet M. and Charles Tilson Barrows (both deceased). He graduated from Bob Jones University in 1944 with a B.A. in Sacred Music. He was ordained by a Baptist Church in Ceres in 1944 and briefly served as an assistant pastor at Temple Baptist Church in St. Paul, Minn.
In 1945, Barrows married Billie Newell (deceased). It was on their honeymoon in western North Carolina that they first met a young evangelist named Billy Graham.
Music played a significant role in the programming of Billy Graham Crusades, for which Barrows was responsible dating back to the first Crusade in Grand Rapids, Mich., in 1947. Barrows and soloist George Beverly Shea were the nucleus of the Crusade musical team.
Mr. Barrows remained active in his later years in the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He hosted the weekly Hour of Decision radio program, heard around the world, for more than 60 years. Up until his passing, he hosted the Hour of Decision Online Internet radio program, which posts weekly on https://billygraham.org/. He also served on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Board of Directors since 1950.
For significant contributions to Gospel music, Barrows was inducted into the Nashville Gospel Music Hall of Fame in April 1988, and into the Religious Broadcasting Hall of Fame in February 1996. Barrows was also inducted into the inaugural class of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists’ “Hall of Faith” in 2008.
Memorization of Scripture was a significant part of Barrows’ walk with Christ. Even when he couldn’t read in his later years due to deteriorating vision, he would have God’s Word read aloud to him so he could memorize it.
He was married to Billie for nearly 50 years. Then God brought Barrows and his second wife, Ann Prince, together following the death of both of their spouses to cancer.
In an extraordinary interview I conducted with Cliff Barrows for my Front Page Radio program on KWVE 107.9 FM in Southern California, Mr. Barrows reminisced about his long association with Billy Graham and Bev Shea and also the time his late wife, Billie, send him a “Valentine’s Card from Heaven” and his more recent battle with blindness.
I began by asking Mr. Barrows to recall his first broadcast of “The Hour of Decision.”
“Yes, that took place on November 5, 1950… it was an exciting time for us.”
He revealed that at first it seemed that the program would never get off the ground.
“Billy Graham didn’t feel that he was gifted to go on radio, although others felt differently,” he told me. “But he prayed and we prayed together and then we set out a fleece that for the first 13 months of the broadcast that it would be subscribed by people who would be interested and when that was done then we felt well we need to proceed with a pilot program which we did in Minneapolis.
“The first time we went on air was from the Tabernacle we erected over the baseball stadium at the Ponce De Leon Ballpark in Atlanta Georgia. And that was an exciting day for us as, first of all, the engineer had to come down from Chicago to put us on the network and he got stuck and somehow he didn’t make it in time. So we had to use a local engineer, who was a very dear friend, to feed the program on the board and to ride the levels and get the levels up to Chicago so we were really on pins and needles as well as very excited about what we were attempting to do.
“The choir was behind us on the platform. We had Grady Wilson with us as Billy wanted the people who were the folks on the platform in a normal crusade, to be the participants on the radio program. So we developed a program that involved George Beverly Shea of course as our soloist our featured soloist we involved the choir and then we involved Grady Wilson who read the Scriptures each week.
“I was the announcer to bring us on the air and to introduce the various features that we might have. And then of course, as I always say, ‘And now with a man with a message for these crisis days here is Billy Graham.’”
Cliff Barrows then spoke about one of the most difficult times in his life when he discovered that his wife Billie had cancer.
“We had fifty wonderful years together, and when you’ve been married to someone that long who has shared your life; the burden of the ministry as well as bearing five children through our union and seeing this develop into 24 grandchildren, it was very difficult to deal with the news.
“She came down with cancer and it metastasized in 1991 and went into her liver and then she lived until December of 1994. She passed away just before Christmas and just before she passed, she knew she didn’t have long and so at Christmas time, she had written a Valentine’s Card and gave it to my daughter to mail so it would get me wherever I on that day.
An Air-Mail special delivery from heaven
He went on to say, “She knew I’d be continuing the meetings and she wanted me to receive it on Valentine’s Day. She wrote it as though she was home with Jesus and she was in Heaven and she was rejoicing in His presence. I had gone to Auburn, California, with Roger Flessing to do some television work there and, on Valentine’s Day, I walked into the hotel and, there, waiting for me was a card.
“Somebody had brought it into my room laid it on the desk. It was from my Billie and it was as though God had sent it air mail special delivery from Heaven. And I got it on Valentine’s Day. It was a very moving experience for me and then shortly after that, God brought into my life a beautiful young lady that God in His divine providence was providing for me even long before I knew I was going to need somebody. He had provided Ann Prince who God brought into my life.”
Eye sight destroyed
“Ann and I were in England together one time shortly after we were married, but little did I know then that my eye sight would be destroyed by macular degeneration. Now I cannot read and she has to read for me and she also drives for me. She goes with me wherever I go; and I just thank God for her and her sweet loving spirit.
“I can see periphery, but I don’t have any center vision in my eyes. I can’t focus on things. If I look at them they turn to black. But I can see to get around periphery quite well if there’s enough light but if it’s dark, I can’t. Now I can’t read music and or the title of songs so I have to rely on memory and also for the speaking. Ann reads to me and I go over some thoughts and she writes down my notes for me or reviews the notes that I’ve written before I had this problem. And then we just keep reviewing them until I get them into my mind and in my heart. I just have to say, ‘Lord, I’m opening my mouth wide now you fill it.”
Cliff Barrows was the “youngster” of the Billy Graham team. Billy Graham recently celebrated on November 7th, his 98th birthday, and George Beverly Shea was 104 when he died in 2013.
Cliff is survived by his wife, Ann, and five children from his first marriage and their spouses — Chris and Bonnie Thomas, Bob Barrows, David and Betty Ruth Seera, Clifford (Bud) Barrows, and Bill and Teri Barrows – and numerous grandchildren. He is also survived by Ann Barrows’ children and their spouses, Tal and Teresa Prince and David and Dana Shillington.
His life and ministry will be celebrated during a funeral service on Tuesday, November 22, at 10:30 a.m. at Calvary Church in Charlotte (5801 Pineville-Matthews Road), North Carolina.
A private family burial will be held that afternoon at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, where Barrows will be interred. Following the service, he will be laid to rest on the grounds of the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte during a private ceremony for family and very close friends. The Billy Graham Library will be closed on Tuesday, November 22, and will reopen to the public on Wednesday, November 23.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (1 Billy Graham Parkway, Charlotte, NC 28201, BillyGraham.org); Samaritan’s Purse (PO Box 3000, Boone, NC 28607, www.SamaritansPurse.org); and Ravencrest Chalet Bible School and Retreat Center, a member of Torchbearers International (PO Box 2620, Estes Park, CO 80517, www.RavenCrest.org). A memorial website has been set up in Barrows’ honor at CliffBarrowsMemorial.org.
Photo captions: 1) Cliff Barrows. 2) (Left to right) Cliff Barrows, Billy Graham and George Beverly Shea singing “This Little Light of Mine” in 1984 in Sunderland, England. 3) Cliff Barrows in a recording studio with Billy Graham as he directed The Hour of Decision radio show. 4) Billie Barrows with Cliff shortly before her death. 5) Les Nixon from Outback Patrol, Australia, with Cliff Barrows and Dan Wooding, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California before the Billy Graham crusade took place there in 2004. 6) Cliff Barrows and his wife Ann in 2007. 7) At the NRB with Peter Wooding, my younger son, Cliff Barrows with wife, Ann, and myself. It was the last time I ever met with Cliff Barrows.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. He is the author of some 45 books and has two TV programs and one radio show in Southern California, and Dan has had the privilege of being part of Billy Graham’s media team in Moscow, Russia, Essen, Germany, and also in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He also wrote the cover story on Billy and Franklin Graham for the Saturday Evening Post. Dan hosts a radio show and two TV programs all based in Southern California.
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