George Beverly Shea, longtime singer for Graham, dies at 104

Posted Tuesday, Apr. 16, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- George Beverly Shea, the booming baritone who sang to millions of Christians at evangelist Billy Graham's crusades, died Tuesday. He was 104.

A spokesman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association said Mr. Shea died in Asheville after a brief illness.

Mr. Shea's rendition of How Great Thou Art came to define the faith of a Protestant generation that Graham helped bring to Jesus Christ. Mr. Shea performed live before an estimated 200 million people at crusades over the years -- taking him from North Dakota to North Korea and beyond.

Mr. Shea was well-known as a gospel soloist before he and Graham met in the early 1940s. He joined Graham's crusade team in 1947 and stayed until Graham's declining health ended most of the evangelist's public appearances nearly 60 years later.

A Canadian emigrant who became one of America's most-recognized gospel soloists, Mr. Shea summed up his career with one of his inspirational trademarks: The Wonder of It All.

"I just thought it was such a privilege," he said in a January 2009 interview.

At Mr. Shea's 100th birthday celebration in February 2009, Graham said that he couldn't have had a ministry without Mr. Shea.

Mr. Shea received 10 Grammy nominations, won a Grammy in 1965, and was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Grammy organization in 2011. He was also a member of the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame and was inducted into the Religious Broadcasting Hall of Fame in February 1996.

Born in Feb. 1, 1909, in Winchester, Ontario, where his father was a Wesleyan Methodist minister, Mr. Shea's first public singing was in the choir of his father's church.

Survivors include his wife and two children.

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