In a private gathering of friends and family, legendary gospel soloist George Beverly Shea celebrated his 100th
birthday Monday night, February 1, 2009. George Beverly Shea was born February 1, 1909, in Winchester, Ontario, Canada. Shea was the son of a Wesleyan Methodist Church minister. He first sang for Billy Graham in 1943 on the Chicago radio hymn program, “Songs in the Night.”
Longtime friends including evangelist Billy Graham, music director Cliff Barrows, gospel music legends Bill and Gloria Gaither, and Franklin Graham attended the private event, hosted at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, N.C.
“I’m deeply grateful to him,” said Billy Graham about George Beverly Shea during testimonies given during the event. “I count him as one of my closest friends and confidantes.”
Other remarks during the program pointed to the humility and grace of George Beverly Shea, the man often called “America’s Beloved Gospel Singer.” George Beverly Shea was also honored for his vital contribution to the work of evangelism for the Billy Graham Crusade team for more than 60 years.
The beloved centenarian took the opportunity to recite one of his favorite hymns, “The Shadow of a Cross,” a moment that reminded many of his many decades with the Billy Graham Crusades to every continent and every state in the country.
A Rodgers organ was presented to George Beverly Shea, eventually to be given to the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. Following a Franklin Graham Prison Festival at Angola in 2006, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association donated funds to build a chapel there. The chapel at Angola was dedicated in April 2008.
In remarkably good health for his 100 years, George Beverly Shea greeted well-wishers after the event saying, “I was overwhelmed that so many people were here tonight, and I never dreamed I would get a gift like this.”
Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham commented, “All these years, Daddy always said that a Crusade really began when Uncle Bev walked up to the mic and began to sing.”
George Beverly Shea has received ten Grammy nominations, one Grammy Award in 1965, and he is a member of the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame. Shea is also the author of several hymns and hymn tunes. For his significant contributions to Gospel music, George Beverly Shea was inducted into the Religious Broadcasting Hall of Fame in February 1996.
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