That summer, I accompanied Bev Shea and Grand Ole Opry legend George Hamilton IV, to the gorge at Burrington Combe near Bristol, England, where years before a local preacher was inspired to pen the lyrics to the classic hymn “Rock of Ages” after finding shelter from a storm in the fissured cleft of a giant granite formation. Accompanied by Hamilton’s guitar, the two men sang the song that speaks of God’s providence and protection – a moving moment, which was caught on film and I was blessed to witness.
The Man Transcends the Music
George Beverly Shea’s anointed melodies captivated a generation of millions of crusade-goers, now middle-aged and seniors, who grew up listening to him sing. I regularly enjoyed his musical artistry for more than 32 years, hearing him perform hundreds of times at crusades around the world.
But the man, the method and the message transcended the music. His exemplary life was a reminder that God protects, preserves, upholds and blesses those who selflessly dedicate their talents in service to him.
Many reporters who interviewed Bev Shea were impressed by the simplicity of his faith and testimony. ASSIST News Service observed he was “A man of deep sympathies; he will listen endlessly to the troubles of others, but dismiss his own with a word and a smile.”
Four years ago, a group of family and friends gathered at The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, N.C., to celebrate Bev Shea’s 100th birthday. They presented him with a Rodgers organ, to be installed in his home, which would eventually be used at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.
Six months later, Bev called Warden Burl Cain and asked him to send someone to get the instrument, as he wanted to donate it the prison. When the warden reminded him the organ was his to use until he died, Shea replied, “I’m dying to have it go there now.” One month later, he put on a musical evening in the prison chapel, accompanied by his organ, attended by 600 inmates.
Shea was a deeply spiritual man who had “a hunger to know more about the Lord,” and liked to say, “we have promises to memorize and songs to sing.” His advice for other believers: “Keep your devotions, study the word, enjoy his presence and learn from him daily.”
Franklin Graham observed that Bev Shea’s life was a living testimony to the Scripture engraved inside his wedding band, Psalm 28:7: “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise him.”
As George Beverly Shea eternally adds his booming baritone to the heavenly choir, his melodious legacy lives on here in our hearts.
Larry Ross, president of A. Larry Ross Communications, a Dallas-based media/public relations agency founded in 1994, has more than 37 years’ experience in mainstream and Christian public relations, including serving as director of media/public relations and principal spokesperson for evangelist Billy Graham since 1981.