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George Beverly Shea turns 100


(BP) George Beverly Shea, the legendary soloist who ministered alongside evangelist Billy Graham for decades, celebrated his 100th birthday Feb. 1 at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, N.C.

Graham, music director Cliff Barrows, and gospel music icons Bill and Gloria Gaither attended the private event in Shea’s honor, giving testimony of his humility and his contribution to the largest evangelistic ministry in history, according to a news release.

“I’m deeply grateful to him,” Graham said at the event. “I count him as one of my closest friends and confidantes.”

After greeting friends, Shea reportedly sang “The Shadow of a Cross” and was presented with a Rodgers organ that eventually will be used at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, where the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association donated funds to build a chapel following a Franklin Graham Prison Festival in 2006. Burl Cain, Angola’s warden, attended the birthday celebration, the news release said.

“I was overwhelmed that so many people were here tonight,” Shea said after the event. “And I never dreamed I would get a gift like this.”

Shea, a Grammy award winner and a member of the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame, began singing with Graham on the Chicago radio hymn program “Songs in the Night” in 1943.

“All these years, Daddy always said that a crusade really began when Uncle Bev walked up to the mic and began to sing,” Franklin Graham said.