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Cliff Barrows, Billy Graham’s song leader for six decades, dies at 93

Cliff Barrows, program director for evangelist Billy Graham's crusade in New York on Sunday (June 26).
Cliff Barrows, program director for evangelist Billy Graham's crusade in New York on Sunday (June 26).
Photo by Michael Falco, Religion News Service

Cliff Barrows, who led songs for evangelist Billy Graham for six decades, died under hospice care in Charlotte, N.C., a memorial website disclosed. He was 93 years old.

“Cliff and I were together more than 60 years and in all that time we never had an argument,” Billy Graham said in a statement on Tuesday (Nov. 15). “We had a few disagreements, but I can’t even remember those. It’s been a wonderful fellowship in our whole organization. There wouldn’t be a Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in the way it is today without him.”

Barrows, a native of Ceres, Calif., earned a degree in sacred music at Bob Jones University and was an assistant pastor at Temple Baptist Church in St. Paul, Minn. On his honeymoon with his wife, Wilma “Billie” Newell, the couple first met Billy Graham, and handled music for the evangelist’s Grand Rapids, Mich., crusade in 1947.

After that, Graham, Barrows and soloist George Beverly Shea — who died at 104 years of age in 2013 — were inseparable. The trio, backed by associate evangelists and guest musical artists, held campaigns across the United States and around the world. Their largest audience, 1.1 million, was during the 1973 crusade at Yoido Plaza in Seoul, Korea.

Barrows led the mass choirs at Graham’s crusades, sang on occasion with Shea and was the weekly host/announcer for Graham’s “Hour of Decision” radio broadcast. Barrows was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1988 and into the National Religious Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1996.

“His uncanny ability to lead a Crusade choir of thousands of voices or an audience of a hundred thousand voices in a great hymn or Gospel chorus is absolutely unparalleled,” Graham wrote in his autobiography, “Just As I Am.”

Jerry A. Johnson, president and CEO of the National Religious Broadcasters, said Barrows was full of joy.

“He spoke with joy, sang with joy and led God’s people to sing with joy at the Billy Graham crusades,” Johnson said.

A public funeral service will be held Nov. 22 at 10:30 a.m. at Calvary Church in Charlotte. Barrows will be interred at a private ceremony at the Billy Graham Library.