The Billy Graham Library in Charlotte stands as a testament to a man whose influence has resonated across generations. The walls of the library are adorned with photos and mementos, celebrating not only Graham but also the stalwarts who worked alongside him.
Prominent among them is the late gospel icon, George Beverly Shea. A snapshot from January 13, 2009, captures Shea in an intimate moment at his Montreat residence, offering a glimpse into the life of a man who touched the hearts of countless Christians through his moving renditions during Billy Graham’s crusades.
The world mourned his passing on April 16, 2013, when Shea, after a brief ailment, passed away at the age of 104.
Shea's Induction: Hall of Fame
Come October 19, Shea's monumental legacy will be acknowledged as he is inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in Mooresville.
The star-studded event will also feature inductions of country sensation Scotty McCreery, esteemed singer/songwriter Loudon Wainwright III, Charlotte's alternative sensation Fetchin Bones, and funk legends Betty Davis and Bill Curtis.
Will Graham, reminiscing about the iconic ensemble, shared a cherished photograph from the library, stating, “That was the original dream team”. The picture portrays Billy Graham amidst his closest collaborators, including music maestro Cliff Barrows and, of course, Shea - fondly referred to as “America’s beloved gospel singer”.
The synergy between Shea and Billy Graham was palpable. Billy Graham once described Shea's singing as delivering a sermon, evoking such deep emotions that it often left him in a state of prayerful reflection. Shea’s humility was his signature.
"He just loved singing about Jesus," Will Graham noted. To grasp Shea's colossal reach, one only needs to consider this: Guinness World Records has credited him with performing to an audience of over 220 million during his lifetime.
In comparison, while pop sensation Taylor Swift’s tours draw vast crowds, the sheer magnitude of the Graham Crusades was unparalleled. In the Billy Graham Library, a family heirloom takes pride of place – Shea’s piano.
"That's how he learned music," shared his son, Ron Shea. Despite his monumental stature, Shea’s humility shone through, even during occasional on-stage hiccups. Shea's harmonious partnership with America's pastor, Billy Graham, was iconic.
Ron Shea recollects how his father's songs would set the stage for Graham's message, calming the audience and paving the way for the impactful sermons. As the NC Music Hall of Fame prepares to honor Shea, it serves as a poignant reminder of the magic that unfolded when Shea and Graham came together, delivering a universal message of hope and faith. As Will Graham aptly puts it, this recognition is a befitting tribute to Shea's prodigious talent.