The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Top Stories

April 17, 2013

George Beverly Shea dies; sang at Graham crusades

MONTREAT, N.C — George Beverly Shea, whose booming baritone voice echoed through stadiums, squares and souls during a decades-long career with evangelist Billy Graham, died Tuesday. He was 104.

Billy Graham Evangelistic Association spokesman Brent Rinehart said Shea died in Asheville after a brief illness.

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

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.

“As a young man starting my ministry, I asked Bev if he would join me,” Graham said then. “He said yes and for over 60 years we had the privilege of ministering together across the country and around the world. Bev was one of the most humble, gracious men I have ever known and one of my closest friends. I loved him as a brother.”

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

“I just thought it was such a privilege,” Shea said in a January 2009 interview.

Despite several chances to perform on the secular stage, Shea largely stuck with gospel music. He recorded dozens of albums of sacred music and was nominated for 10 Grammys. He won in 1965 for his album “Southland Favorites.” At age 88, he recorded his first country-and-western album.

Shea believed the simplicity of old hymns drew people to his music.

“It’s the message of the lyrics, the test that hits the heart in a hurry and the melody that goes along with it and seems to all go together,” Shea said.

Born Feb. 1, 1909, in Winchester, Ontario, George Beverly Shea grew up singing around the family dinner table and then later in his father’s church choir.

Though his father was a Wesleyan minister, Shea recalled that he was a wandering teenager who needed direction. He had wavered several times from the gospel until the week his father put on a special effort to draw people to the faith.

When the invitation came, the gospel song “Just As I Am” — a tune that he himself later sang and recorded — filled the sanctuary. His father left the pulpit and walked to the back pew where Shea said, putting his hand on his shoulder and saying, “son, tonight might be the night.”

"I love my Dad. I walked with him right down that middle aisle,” Shea recalled. “My father always knelt on one knee, so I knelt on one knee. That’s when it happened.”

With more drive and focus, Shea moved to New York City and trained with voice coaches, singing on radio stations WMCA and WHN. Though he had a chance to work in the secular business, Shea instead chose to move to Chicago, where he built his popularity at radio station WMBI and later on ABC radio’s “Club Time.” So he was already well-known in Christian music circles even before he met Graham when the lanky young man, then a student at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., came to the WMBI studio in Chicago in the early 1940s.

“I knew he was from the South. I could hear it in my ears,” Shea recalled. “He was what I call a Southern gentleman. He was just too complimentary of what he was hearing on the air.”

Their friendship began with that first handshake.

“I said: ‘The only gospel singers I’ve ever heard of, they have to sing a little bit and then talk for a while, would I have to do that?’” Shea recalled.

“I hope not,” was Graham’s response. A few years later, in 1947, the two began their crusade ministry.

Shea always performed a peaceful hymn just before the famed evangelist preached his message and asked people to make Jesus their personal savior. Graham “really loves the quiet song before he speaks. Perhaps something that will point to what he’s going to speak on,” Shea said.

Kurt Kaiser, Shea’s accompanist of 30 years, recalled his personal touch.

“When he begins to sing a song, he can sing it directly to you. He tried to find a single face in the audience, maybe a sympathetic gaze,” Kaiser once said. “This personal quality is same thing that can be found in the gospel message.”

The soloist had two children from his marriage to his first wife, Erma, who died in 1976. Shea and his second wife, Karlene, lived in Montreat.

1
Text Only
Top Stories
  • r041514recycledfashion.jpg Joplin High School students to model ‘recycled’ dresses at fashion show

    Audrey Kaman will walk the runway later this week wearing a dress she designed herself — made out of 250 doilies. “I’d say it’s a fun dress,” the Joplin High School sophomore said. “It’s not really elegant because it’s short, but it’s cute.”

    April 15, 2014 4 Photos

  • Shooter in Joplin murder sentenced to life in prison

    The teen convicted of being the triggerman in the murder of Jacob Wages was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison with the possibility of parole. At a hearing in Jasper County Circuit Court in Joplin, Circuit Judge Gayle Crane followed a jury’s recommendations in assessing Daniel D. Hartman, 18, two life sentences on convictions for second-degree murder and armed criminal action, and 15 years on a conviction for burglary.

    April 15, 2014

  • Interchange construction work near Carterville to create safer off-ramp

    As the Missouri Department of Transportation begins rebuilding eastbound ramps at the Missouri Highway 171 and Route HH interchange near Carterville this week, drivers can expect ramp and occasional lane closures. The $1.5 million project, funded by the state, will increase the distance between ramps for drivers traveling northbound on Highway 249 and exiting eastbound to Highway 171.

    April 15, 2014

  • Schreiber Foods schedules Carthage plant expansion

    Plans to expand a Schreiber Foods plant to eventually add 160 new jobs have been endorsed by a Carthage committee working with the company. Andrew Tobish, director of combinations for Schreiber, which is based in Green Bay, Wis., confirmed the project, which he said would be complete by late spring or early summer in 2015.

    April 15, 2014

  • 3 To Get Ready

    Three things coming your way in Wednesday’s paper.

    April 15, 2014

  • Local Jews offer reactions to Overland Park shooting

    Jews in Joplin and throughout the region are struggling to come to terms with Sunday’s shooting at a Jewish community center and a Jewish retirement complex in suburban Kansas City, resulting in three deaths. The suspect has been identified as Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, of Aurora.

    April 14, 2014

  • Suspect in Kansas shooting has long history as white supremacist

    Frazier Glenn Cross drew the ire of Joplin residents in 2006 when several hundred copies of his white supremacist newspaper were landing on lawns in the city. The White Patriot Leader spouted the usual Cross diatribe. A race war was imminent. The “newspaper for white Americans,” as it billed itself, ranted against an invasion of the country by illegal Hispanic immigrants, the proliferation of black culture, and a purported takeover of the government, banks and the media by Jews.

    April 14, 2014

  • r041414wildwood.jpg Opening of nursing home another recovery milestone

    Gladys Dutton has done a lot of things in her life, but Monday’s dedication of the Communities at Wildwood Ranch nursing home marked a first. “I’ve never cut a ribbon before,” she said. “I hope I do a good job.” Dutton was one of four residents to participate in the opening of the $8.5 million nursing center that eventually will be home to 120 people.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mike Seibert elected new mayor of Joplin

    Joplin’s new mayor pledged Monday night that the city will operate with more transparency and that work toward redevelopment will be the City Council’s priority. Mike Seibert, who withstood a challenge by another incumbent councilman in last Tuesday’s election to be the Zone 4 councilman, was elected mayor by a unanimous vote of the panel Monday night.

    April 14, 2014

  • 3 To Get Ready

    Members of the new Joplin City Council, in the wake of the April 8 election and turmoil that roiled to the surface last August, will elect a mayor and mayor pro tem. Read all of the details.

    April 14, 2014