Skip to main content

George Beverly Shea Papers

Identifier: CN 541

Scope and Contents

Correspondence, sheet music, business records, phonograph records, programs, songbooks, and other materials from Shea’s career as a soloist, radio personality, and composer. Most of the material is from the last decades of his life, especially his work with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), but the entire range of his life from the 1930s on is covered. Though representing only a fraction of Shea’s papers, it includes a rich collection of source material that Shea used in his musical endeavors.


  • 1931-2010


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research, and there are no access restrictions on the materials.

Conditions Governing Use

Buswell Library & Special Collections does not hold the copyright to any of the music written by Shea or to any of his recordings.

Biographical Information

Full name: George Beverly Shea

Birth: February 1, 1909, in Winchester, Ontario, Canada

Death: April 16, 2013 in Asheville, North Carolina

Family Parents: Rev. Adam Joseph Shea and Maude Mary Theodora (Whitney) Shea

Siblings: Pauline Barbara Shea Lusk; John Gerald Whitney Shea; Mary Evangling Shea Shea; Ruth Georgina Willett; Alton James Shea; Louis Laura Shea, and Grace Holden Baker

Marital Status: To Erma L. Sharfe, 1934-1976; To Karlene Aceto, 1985-2013

Children: Ronald G. (1948), Elaine L.

Conversion: Ca. 1927, at the age of 18 rededicated his life during service conducted by Rev. and Mrs. F. W. Suffield

Ordination: Licensed as a minister in the Christian and Missionary Alliance and the Wesleyan Methodist Church. His ministry was mostly music.


Annesley College, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

1928-1929 - Houghton College, Houghton, New York

Ca. 1930s - Studied under vocal coach Gino Monaco. For the previous ten years Shea had studied with Manly Price Boone (see letter to Elisabeth Nordstrom in folder 6-3).


1929-1938 - Clerk at the headquarters of Mutual of New York

1929-1939 - Radio broadcaster (including singing and announcing) on stations WMCA and WHN, both in New York City, and WKBO in Jersey City, New Jersey. He also sang occasionally on the Fred Allen radio program and Percy Crawford’s Young People’s Church of the Air. Also sang as a soloist at Jack Wyrtzen youth meetings around New York State and at Percy Crawford’s Pinebrook camps during the summer.

1933 - Composed the music for the poem “I’d Rather Have Jesus” by Rhea Miller. This hymn became one Shea’s most popular compositions.

1939-1944 - Announcer and staff soloist on the radio programs Let’s Go Back to the Bible, Miracles and Melodies, and Hymns From the Chapel for radio station WMBI, Chicago, Illinois. WMBI was owned by Moody Bible Institute.

1942 - Traveled with evangelist Jack Wyrtzen as a soloist

1944-1947 - Sang at Youth for Christ rallies around the country

1944-1952 - Soloist on the radio program Songs in the Night, a program produced by the Western Springs Baptist Church in Western Springs, Illinois. He also served as music director of the church.

1944-1952 - Soloist on the radio program Club Time on the ABC Network, a fifteen minute selection of hymns, sponsored by Club Aluminum

1947-2005 - Soloist with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). Billy Graham, Cliff Barrows, and Shea worked together as a team for 58 years.

1947-1951? - Signed on as a recording artist with Singspiration Sacred Recordings

1950-2005? - Soloist on the BGEA’s radio program Hour of Decision

1951-1954 - Soloist on the BGEA’s television program Hour of Decision

1951-1975 - Became a recording artist with RCA-Victor Company. Over the course of his career, Shea recorded more than fifty albums and numerous singles (33-1/3 rpm), 45 rpm, 78 rpm) for RCA-Victor, Word, Decca, Singspiration, and other companies on both phonograph records and CDs.

1955?-1983 - Chancel Music, Inc., formed to hold copyright to Shea’s songs, with Shea as president. In 1983, Word took over the copyrights and the Chancel name.

1975-ca. 2013 - Became a recording artist with Word

Other significant information

Wrote lyrics and composed music for several hymns, such as “The Wonder of It All”

1941 - Shea became a United States citizen

1956 - Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts, Houghton College, Houghton, New York (This diploma was returned by the family to Houghton after Shea’s death so it could be displayed.)

1966 - Won Grammy Award in the sacred category for Southland Favorites (1965). Nominated 10 other times

1972 - Honorary Doctor of Sacred Music, Trinity College, Deerfield, Illinois

1972 - Authored Songs That Lift the Heart, published by Fleming Revell

1968 - Authored Then Sings My Soul, published by Fleming Revell

1975-1980 - Served on the board of Trinity College, Deerfield, Illinois

1978 - Elected to the Gospel Music Hall of Fame

1982 - Received Gold Angel Award for County Music by Religion in Media

1983 - Received Christian Achievement Award from Jubilate

1993 - Received Christian Service Award from The Christian Holiness Association

1996 - Elected to the Religious Broadcasters Hall of Fame

1999 - Received Integrity Award from Marketplace Ministries

2004 - Authored How Sweet the Sound, published by Tyndale House

2009 - Received Great Commission Award, Salvation Army-USA, Eastern Division

2010 - Received Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award


11.1 Linear Feet (24 Boxes (DC, LDC); Audio Tapes, CDs, Oversize Materials, Phonograph Records, Photographs, Videos)

Language of Materials


Arrangement and Description

The contents of this collection consist of files from Shea’s home office, largely dealing with his work with the BGEA, although boxes 1 through 3 contain materials documenting his activities in the 1940s and 1950s, prior to and at the very beginning of his close association with Billy Graham.

• Series I – Early Correspondence files, Boxes 1-3, 1931-1957

• Series II: Later Correspondence, Boxes 4-7, 1962-2010

• Series III: General Files, Boxes 8-16

• Series IV: Sheet Music, Songbooks, Lyrics, Boxes 17-24


Series I – Early Correspondence files, Boxes 1-3, 1931-1957

These boxes document almost the very start of Shea’s career, the years when he had moved to the Chicago area, was on the staff of WMBI, had a nationwide radio audience for his hymn singing, and had his first involvement with Billy Graham’s ministry. (Folders 1-13 and 2-7 each contain a single letter from his days working for an insurance company and contemplating moving back to Canada.) They deal with some of his personal concerns, such as his home in Western Springs, but mainly with his activities as a radio personality, recording artist, composer (and the business aspects of composition), songbook compiler and soloist at Youth for Christ rallies and Billy Graham evangelistic campaigns. The folders are arranged alphabetically by folder title and the titles are those which Shea gave them, except for folder 2-11.

The great majority of letters are to Shea rather than from him. Among his correspondents are many people prominent in the Protestant Fundamentalist and Evangelical traditions, such as: B. D. Ackley, Percy Crawford (see also folder 16-5), C. O. Baptista, Norman Clayton, Peter Deyneka, Sr. (folder 1-2), Gil Dodds, Homer Hammontree, H. A. Ironside, Will Houghton, Billy Graham, Stephen W. Paine, J. Palmer Muntz, Homer Rodeheaver, Harry Saulnier, Al Smith (folder 3-4), Walter H. Smyth, Oswald J. Smith, Peter Stam, Gordon D. Shorney (folder 3-6), Herbert J. Taylor, Robert Van Kampen, Robert Walker, George M. Wilson, and Jack Wyrtzen.

The bulk of the correspondence deals with Shea as a bass baritone soloist and his related occupations as a radio personality, hymn composer and songbook compiler.

Throughout the boxes are letters asking him to give a concert or perform as part of a program at the church or other venue, including letters from Percy Crawford, Oswald J. Smith, and Jack Wyrtzen. There are many letters requesting him to sing at Youth for Christ rallies or similar youth rallies. (See folders 1-7, 1-13, 2-3, 2-8, 3-5, 3-10, 3-11) Folder 3-11 contains a letter from Shea to a Mr. Lynch extolling the work of Youth for Christ. Folder 1-11 contains several friendly letters from Homer Hammontree, who had been a song leader for Mel Trotter and Billy Sunday, and was teaching at Moody Bible Institute during the years Shea worked for WMBI. Folder 3-5 has a letter from the YFC director in Philadelphia, Walter Smyth, asking Shea to sing at his wedding. In order to perform in some churches, Shea needed a license to preach from the denomination. Such a license from the Wesleyan Methodist denomination can be found in folders 2-5 and 14-5 and from the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination in folder 1-4. Programs from a few of his personal appearances are in folder 2-11. Folder 3-11 contains a letter from someone who claimed he saw Shea smoking and Shea’s replying totally repudiating the claim.

He received many letters of appreciation for the hymn “I’d Rather Have Jesus,” for which he wrote the music (folder 1-14), and many requests for permission to use it in hymnbooks or at concerts or evangelistic events (folder 2-10, among others). Folder 2 13 contains an interesting letter from Homer Rodeheaver about his unsuccessful effort to buy the copyright to the song (see also folders 1-10. 2-10 and 3-6). Folders 2-5 and 10 12 contains his correspondence with Rhea Miller, whose poem inspired Shea to write the music. (See also the letter from Miller’s granddaughter Linda Quanstrom in folder 5 6). Folder 1-14 include numerous letters to Shea from people asking permission to put “I’d Rather Have Jesus” in their songbooks. Folder 10-12 contains very early correspondence between Shea and Miller about the song, as well as drawings received from children rendering the lyrics pictorially. See also folder 22-11.

He published sheet music and several songbooks during his career. These boxes contain material dealing with the compilation of his first song book, Singing I Go with Beverly Shea and His Radio Favorites, which was published by Van Kampen Press in 1947. Folder 3-6 consists mainly of Shea’s letters asking permission to include various songs and the replies, but there are also letters about the publication of the book and other details, including a letter from hymn writer Norman Clayton on how to put a songbook together. Folder 3-7 contains sheet music and lyrics, with Shea’s notes in many cases, for the songs he was considering for the book. Folder 1-14 include numerous letters to Shea from people asking permission to put “I’d Rather have Jesus” in their songbooks. See also folder 24-3.

Shea was also a recording artist. For most of the time covered by boxes 1 to 3 he recorded with the Singspiration label, headed by President Al Smith. But there is correspondence with many other labels as well, including Campus Christian Recording, Gospel Songs Inc., Alma Records, and Rodeheaver Hall-Mack Company. In 1951, Shea entered into a long-term relationship with RCA Victor. Correspondence and publicity about his RCA Victor recordings can be found in folders 2-14, 3-1, 3-2, 4-1, and 16-1. Drafts of contracts with other recording companies are in folder 1-4. People often wrote Shea directly for his recordings, particularly in the early years. Sometimes this was for their own personal use, usually it was for some ministry purpose. These letters can be found in folder 3-3. Business records about royalties Shea received are in folder 3-4. As Shea became better known as a singer of Christian hymns (and perhaps because of the story of how he had turned Rhea Miller’s poem into a hymn), Shea received poems from many people suggesting he could turn their poems into hymns. See for example folders 1-6, 1-7 2-7, and 3-5 (the latter with some poems/lyrics by Oswald J. Smith).

Other folders are concerned with Shea’s work on the radio, particularly the programs Hymns from the Chapel ( folders 1-12, 9-1), Songs in the Night (folder 3-8), and Club Time (folder 1-5) For Club Time, besides correspondence with Herbert J. Taylor, the president of Club Aluminum which sponsored the program, there is also a contract, a script for one program, and other memos and letters about the show’s production and Shea’s participation. Folder 3-11 contain Shea’s notes, with handwritten corrections, for giving his testimony as to his Christian faith on the Word of Life radio program. (Another example of his testimony is in folder 16-8.) Folder 3-5 has the script for a program of patriotic songs, seemingly in connection with the end of World War II. Shea also actively sought to develop other radio programs and find sponsors for them. See for example folders 1-3 and 2-5. Folder 1-1 contains a letter and memo from the American Federation of Radio Artists, to which Shea apparently belonged, listing the new minimum rate for performers negotiated in 1947. Folder 2-6 contains correspondence about his work with WMBI, including his resignation in 1944.

Shea also was in a film about the songs of Fanny Crosby, produced by C. O. Baptista Films (also known as the Baptista Film Mission). Correspondence about the film, a script, and other production material can be found in folder 1-3. Throughout the files are many, many letters from people who had appreciated his work through concerts, radio, evangelistic rallies, and recordings. Folders 1-2 and 2-1 are dedicated to such letters. The letters are universally positive except for two. Folder 2-3 holds a letter from a mother complaining because Shea had not come to visit her handicapped son as she requested and Shea’s thoughtful reply. Folder 3-11 has a postcard from someone who claimed to have seen Shea smoking and a letter from Shea forcefully denying the charge.

Shea was recruited by Billy Graham, then pastor of the Western Springs Baptist Church (also known as the Village Church) to sing on the church’s radio program, Songs in the Night. Shea moved to Western Springs (4068 Garden Avenue), joined the church, and became its director of music. Graham soon became fully involved with the evangelistic ministry of Youth for Christ and was replaced as pastor, first by Peter Stam and then more formally by Lloyd Fesmire. Folder 1-9 contains the 1945 letter to Fesmire appointing him as pastor. A letter to Graham formally announcing Fesmire’ s appointment is in folder 1-10. See a 2000 note from Fesmire in folder 7 2.) Folder 3-5 includes a letter from Stam describing his work as missionary to Kenya with Africa Inland Mission, an institution he stayed with for the rest of life.

Graham and Shea soon entered into a lifelong partnership when Shea became the soloist at Graham’s evangelistic campaigns and on his radio program, Hour of Decision. Folder 1-10 contains two letters from Graham to Shea. One is from 1946 and pleads with Shea to join Graham on his tour of Great Britain. This did not happen. The other letter is from 1948. Only the first part of the letter was received by the Archives, outlining Graham’s plans for his ministry and Shea’s place in it. Both letters testify to Graham’s high regard for Shea and the importance he placed on Shea’s music. Also in folder 1-10 is a set of 1952 minutes of the board of Northwestern Schools in Minneapolis, including a copy of the letter from Billy Graham about severing his ties with that institution. There is also in the folder some publicity about Graham evangelistic campaigns. Folder 1-8 contains an appreciative letter about Graham’s 1948 campaign in Augusta Georgia and Shea’s part in it. Folder 1-4 contains a letter praising the Hour of Decision and Shea’s part in it.

Some of the folders deal with personal concerns, such as material about his tax bill in folder 3-9, his selective service status during World War II in folder 3-5, correspondence about a problem with his home in Western Springs (folder 2-5), the 1958 adoption of his daughter Elaine in folders 1-12 and 3-11. Folder 1-3 as what seems to be a calendar/address book for 1945-1946. There is one odd item in folder 2-2, which seems to be a standup routine from a soldier who went to France during World War II about his experiences. Its relationship to Shea is unclear. Folder 3-5 contains a letter Shea’s father Adam wrote to a friend toward the end of his life, which the friend passed on to Shea. See also Shea’s letter to Vicki Williams about his father in folder 7-6.

Shea also seemed to love gadgets and appliances. Throughout these boxes are advertisements or brochures or instructions for devices such as compasses, garden tractors, Coffeemasters, sound mirror magnetic tape home recorder-reproducers, Cine-Lite Gun (really lights for use with a movie camera), master touch organs, Norge refrigerators, transcription turntables, and wire recorders, among other things.


Series II: Later Correspondence, Boxes 4-7, 1962-2010

The correspondence in this series covers almost fifty years, although the vast majority is from the years 1990 through 2001. There are no letters from 2002 through 2007. They are mostly separated by year into different folders for those which Shea received and those he sent, although sometimes a letter and its response will be stapled together. In these files, Shea’s personal and professional activities (soloist at Billy Graham campaigns, vocalist at churches and other venues, recording artist) are all mixed together. There are two files of BGEA correspondence, received and sent, although again many letters are personal exchanges between friends rather than dealing with his activities as an independent contractor with the Association.

As in Series I, there are some types of letters that can be found throughout this series. Above all, there are the many letters from people who knew Shea only though his records, radio programs, or public appearances. They wrote to express their appreciation of his ministry, sometimes in general terms and sometimes with a detailed story or description of how a particular song or appearance of his had encouraged them or even led to their conversion. These letters give a valuable cross section of the beliefs of the supporters of Shea’s and Billy Graham’s ministries.

There are also a good many letters dealing with his career as a recording artist and some also touching on his work on radio. Most of these are with either Word or World Wide Publications (see for examples folders 5-2, 5-6, 7-6, 7-7). Some are about royalties on his records and CDs (see for example folder 4-11), others deal with songs to be used on records and other aspects of production and distribution. Folder 4-1 includes his 1960 recording schedule. Folder 5-6 includes letter to Edwin Daniels about the recording of Memories of Galilee. Folders 6-6 and 7-1 contain many notes and letters about the CD If That Isn’t Love.

Shea himself was president of a small music company, Chancel Music, from 1955 to 1983. His letter to attorney John Caldwell in folder 4-4 describes the background of the Chancel Music company of which he was the president. (See also the letter to Jack Cross in folder 4-12 and copies of sheet music in folders 22-8 through 22-12 ad 22-14). Folder 4-14 includes a letter to Gloria Taylor, widow of Herbert J. Taylor, who was the sponsor of Shea’s radio program, Club Time; (see also letter from Taylor’s daughter Rwona Lockhart in folder 6-4).

There are also many letters about arrangements for Shea’s concerts or appearances in various venues, including churches. He usually had accompanists at these appearances, such as Tedd Smith, Don Hustad, John Innes, or Kurt Kaiser. Folder 4-3 contains Kurt Kaiser’s letter nominating Shea for membership in the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). Folder 6-3 contains a letter to Cherolyn Shawe about his membership in the Chicago local of American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA).

Folder 5-2 holds a letter to Congressman Howard Cobl asking him to defeat a bill that would not require restaurants to pay compensation for background music played. Folder 4-3 contains a letter to U.S. Senator Jess Helms about a proposed law on music licensing. (Other letters to or from Helms are in folders 6-4 and 6-5.)

People also often sent Shea either music or lyrics for songs that they had written themselves or which they thought would make good hymns. See, for example, folders 4 1, 4-2, and 4-12. Folder 7-7 contains the form letter that was sent to people who sent him unsolicited music manuscripts.

Shea and his correspondents sometimes discussed his regimen or maintaining his voice or other technical aspects of performing. For example, see his letter to Paul Harvey in folder 7-3, which describes the care he took of his voice.

Throughout the correspondence are letters illustrating Shea’s friendships with many other singers, musicians and composers. Among these are Ralph Carmichael (folder 5 3), Bill Gaither (folder 7-3; see also folders 7-7, 9-7), Redd Harper (folder 4-3), Kurt Kaiser (folder 5-6), Bill Pearce (folders 5-6; his eulogy for Pearce is in folder 7-5), Cliff Richards (folder 6-4), Michael W. Smith (folder 7-1), Cindy Walker (folders 5-2, 5-3, 6 5), and Jack Wyrtzen (4-11). Folder 6-4 contains both a letter from Shea to William Phemister about Shea’s appreciation of Tedd Smith and a letter to Iris Read about Elvis Presley. Folder 6-1 includes a letter from Roger Wilburn with information about various earlier hymn vocalists and composers, such as Ira Sankey and E. O. Excell (see also folders 7-2, 9-5). Shea’s great love of pipe organs, including one he had in his home, is documented in letters in folders 6-4 and 7-5.

There are also many letters relating to his more than six decades-long association with Billy Graham and the BGEA. Letters that he sent and received from BGEA staff are in folders 7-6 and 7-7. Some of these are recommendations of musical artists to appear at the Graham’s evangelistic meetings He also served on the board of the Blue Ridge Broadcasting Corporation, which the BGEA owned, and some letters in 7-7 relate to those music programs on the stations owned by the Corporation. Among his BGEA correspondents were Don Bailey (folder 7-7 has a letter about their long association in the BGEA), Cliff Barrows, Bill Brown, David Bruce, Russ Busby, John Corts, Edna Edwards, Allen Emery, Lee Fischer, Roger Flessing, Leighton Ford, Billy Graham, Franklin Graham, Roy Gustafson, Akbar Haqq, John Innes, Rick Marshall, Jerry A. Miller, Tom Phillips, Tedd Smith, John Wesley White, Grady Wilson, and T. W. Wilson. There are notes from Ruth Graham in folder 6-5. Folder 7-2 has a letter from early BGEA staffer Jerry Beaven and Shea’s reply in folder 7-3. Folder 4-8 contains a letter to the son of the BGEA’s first crusade director, Willis Haymaker. Other folders contain information on his friendship with Billy Graham (letter to Louis Drummond in folder 6-5, letter to Paul Harvey on folder 7-3) and Cliff Barrows (folder 4-3 contains album liner notes in which Shea discusses his friendship with Barrows). T.W. Wilson, Graham’s close associate was also a friend of Shea. Folder 4-3 contains a letter from him appreciating Karlene Shea’s work for the BGEA. Folder 7-7 contains Shea’s eulogy for Wilson. See also folder 7-2. Folder 4-13 contains the schedule for Graham’s 1994 visit to areas devastated by Hurricane Andrew (Shea traveled with Graham). Folder 4-14 includes a letter to Lee Turner about the place of music in BGEA meetings. Folder 6-2 has a 1998 letter to BGEA evangelist Roy Gustafson about whether Shea should retire. Correspondence with Dick Ross, who directed many films for the BGEA film arm, World Wide Pictures, is in folders 6-3 and 6-5.

Other letters are from people who wrote him to describe how a particular BGEA meeting or his singing in such a meeting influenced their lives. See for example folder 4-3 and the letter from a Kenyan pastor in folder 6-1. A letter in folder 5-4 describes how Shea was able to project his voice to fill an auditorium when the public address system died.

There are throughout the correspondence letters from family members. There are letters to his brother Alton, for example, in folders 4-14, 5-3, and 6-5. Folder 7-3 contains a letter to his brothers and sisters about singing at The Cove with the Bill Gaither group. Letters to his son Ron and daughter Elaine are in folders 7-2 and 4-14, respectively. There are also letters with genealogical information, such as the letter to Mr. and Mrs. Ken Gerwing in folder 4-12. Other autobiographical material can be found in folder 4-8 (letters to Mrs. Thomas Lytle about Shea’s days in New York and New Jersey in the 1920s and ‘30s). Folder 6-1 contains a letter from Edward Wheeler with memories of Shea’s parents and family members. Folder 7-1 includes fax to Joe Brown with several humorous anecdotes about his courtship of his second wife, Karlene.

Several people approached Shea about doing a biography about him. Letters about a possible biography are in folders 4-14 (letter from Steve Peterson) and 5-6 (letter from William Peterson). Folder 7-5 has notes and letters about the authorized biography by Paul Davis that was published in 2009. Folder 7-3 has a letter to Jim Guild about a proposed biographical entry for Shea in a historical encyclopedia of country music with corrections in Shea’s handwriting, Folder 5-6 contains a letter about a documentary about Shea’s life produced by UNC-TV. Folder 7-1 has a draft of an article about Shea written for Mature Years magazine. A letter from Lois Wright in folder 7-6 includes photocopies of pictures of Shea as a child. Folder 8-8 contains the biographical sheets prepared by the BGEA for Shea, covering a span of several years. For other biographical material, see folder 9-2.

Among other notable correspondents are James Dobson (folder 7-1), Paul Harvey (folders 4-10, 6-10, 7-2), Robert Schuller (folders 4-3, 7-1), and Strom Thurmond (folder 4-3).

Exceptional Items (folder number and description of item)

Folder 4-2: An 1886 note by evangelist Dwight L. Moody, sent to Shea by an admirer.

Folder 4-3: Letter from Richard Chase, president of Wheaton College, announcing the dedication of the George Beverly Shea Recording Studio at the college.

Folder 4-4: Letter to the parole board considering the case of the man who had murdered the sister of his daughter-in-law.

Folder 5-4: Letter to David Brinkley criticizing his program for being unfair to presidential candidate Robert Dole.

Folder 7-3: Letter to John Koppin about visiting the grave of Fundamentalist leader H. A. Ironside.

Folder 7-5: Letter about the GBS Endowment Scholarship Fund established at Trinity International University.

7-6 Correspondence received by Shea from BGEA staff. Includes report on the Blue Ridge Broadcasting Corporation, a BGEA subsidiary for which Shea served as a board member; information on the marketing of Shea’s records and CDs; a Tom Phillips 1994 letter about his resignation to join International Students; clearance for songs to be used by the BGEA of which Shea held the copyrights; article about Myrtle Hall’s arrest and probation in 1996; 1997 letter from John Corts about Shea’s status as an independent contractor with the BGEA (he was never an employee of the Association); 1998 letter from Corts about the establishment of a separate Franklin Graham evangelistic team (see also folder 9-6); list of Shea songs distributed by World Wide Publications; August 1999 letter from Larry Backlund about Shea’s participation in the BGEA Schools of Evangelism.

Folder 7-7: Letter about Shea’s financial contribution to the BGEA’s Amsterdam 2000 conference for itinerant evangelists.


Series III: General Files, Boxes 8-16

This series contains a wide range of material from Shea’s home office, which were foldered and boxed after his death (including some items from his funeral). The foldering and boxing was done by BGEA staff, including David Bruce, so they are not necessarily the order in which Shea would have kept them. The one exception to this is folder 16-7, which contains mostly photocopies of letters and photos as well as other genealogical documents relating to Shea’s ancestors in the Shea and Whitney families. The documents in this folder was pulled together by the Archives staff from material scattered throughout the collection.

From the mid-1940s to the end of his life, Shea was the frequent subject of magazine and newspaper articles about his life, his ministry, and his music. Folders 11-1 and 11-2 contain a large sample of these magazine stories, mostly from Christian publications and, in his later years, publications for older people. Folder 11-1 includes a transcript of his appearance in 1970 on David Frost’s television program. Folders 12-7 through 13-4 contain newspaper articles from cities across the United States, most of which are personality profiles of Shea, although there are also many announcements of upcoming concerts as well as articles about Billy Graham evangelistic campaigns in which he played a prominent part. Folder 8-9 holds many of the messages he received on his 100th birthday, including one from the Governor General of Canada. Folder 13-4 contains several days’ coverage by North Carolina newspapers of Shea’s death and his memorial service and funeral. (See also folder 9-6 for more material from his funeral.)

There is also specific biographical material about Shea’s life, some of it in the newspaper and magazine files mentioned above, other items were prepared by the BGEA public relations department or by other organizations. As mentioned above, folder 16-7 contains photocopies of letters, photos and other documents about Shea’s family history, including articles about his father, Adam James Shea. Folder 12-1 includes an interview Shea did about his relationship with Graham for a documentary about Graham. Folders 14-3 and 14-4 contain documents about the production of the two documentaries that University of North Carolina Public Television did about Shea’s life and ministry. The Archives also has video copies of these two programs. Folder 16-8 has a copy of his personal testimony about how he became a Christian.

Many folders contain information about awards or acknowledgements Shea received, including a certificate of appreciation for his support of the Bush/Cheney presidential campaign in 2004 (folder 8-2), the 1966 Grammy award and 1972 Grammy nomination (folder 10-11), notification of his election o the Religious Broadcasters Hall of Fame (folder 12-6), and his acceptance of the Evangeline Booth Award from the Salvation Army on behalf of the BGEA and Billy Graham (folder 16-5).

Shea closely associated with Billy Graham and the BGEA for more than sixty years of his 104-year life. There are programs and memorabilia for specific evangelistic campaigns he participated in folders 9-10 through 10-5, 10-7, and 10-10. This includes material from Billy Graham’s last appearance at a BGEA crusade in New Orleans in 2006 (folder 10-3), several Franklin Graham meetings, and one Will Graham meeting (folder 10-10). Folder 8-6 contains programs and newsletters from several other BGEA campaigns. Other BGEA events for which there are programs or other documents (with Shea often participating in the program), include the ground breaking (folder 8-5) and dedication of BGEA headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina (folder 8-4), dedication of the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte (folder 10-6), Ruth Bell Graham’s funeral (folder 10-9), and the celebration of fifty years of the BGEA’s ministry in the United Kingdom (folder 14-2). Folder 12-1 includes a copy of a handbill to a 1944 Graham-Shea church service in Chicago, a brochure from the 1951 Seattle Crusade, and a copy of a 1953 script from the BGEA’s radio program, Hour of Decision. Folder 9-10 contains a book of appreciation given to Shea by the choir of the 1952 BGEA Houston Crusade. Folder 16-8 has his answers to an undated BGEA questionnaire about his work with the Association.

Folders 15-1, 15-2, 15-3 contain programs and schedules for more than sixty years of Shea’s career. (See also folders 2-11, 8-4, 8-5, 8-6, 9-8, 14-2.) These included concerts in a wide variety of venues from churches to colleges to stadiums. There are also several items from the Evening of Sacred Music that BGEA musicians and vocalists held in conjunction with evangelistic campaigns. There were a wide variety of other events, including hymn sings and memorial services (for L. Nelson Bell and Grady Wilson in folder 15-1, for Roy Gustafson in folder 15-3). Folder 15-1 also contains programs from Shea’s work with Jack Wyrtzen and with Youth for Christ in the 1940s. There are also several programs from events honoring Shea, such as the 2002 George Beverly Shea Weekend in his home town of Winchester, Ontario, and the 2009 activities in honor of his 100th birthday at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina. There are also in folders 15-2 and 15-3 several sheets that appear to be Shea’s listing of the songs he intended to sing at various concerts. Folder 9-3 holds invitations he received to hold concerts at various venues, including churches, denominational meetings, colleges, and BGEA events. The folder includes script for his acceptance on behalf of Graham of a place in the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. There is also much material in this section about Shea’s career as a soloist, recording artist, and composer. Folder 16-6 contains several handwritten copies, apparently by Shea, of the lyrics for various songs. Apparently he carried these with him in case he needed to refresh his memory. Some other handwritten notes on lyrics are in folder 12 2. Folder 16-1 contains correspondence with the staff of RCA from the mid-1950s about the production and distribution of his records. Advertisements from magazines, newspapers, and catalogs in various formats for Shea’s recordings can be found in folders 8-1 and 14-3. Folder 14-1 contain permissions and other documents related to a collection of Shea’s memorable songs put out by Word in 1996 as part of their “Our ReCollections” series.

Folder 16-9 holds a notebook with an early version of the book that was eventually published as How Sweet the Sound (the original title was The Wonder of It All), including Shea’s handwritten corrections. Reviews and reactions to the book are in folder 10-12.


Series IV: Sheet Music, Songbooks, Lyrics, Boxes 17-24

This sections contains the actual music that Shea sang, some in form of lyrics and songbooks but mostly in the form of sheet music, both printed and (the majority) handwritten. The material in these boxes perhaps served as a reference library, as well as being used in actual performances. The lyrics are in folder 17-1 and like the material in 16-16, on scraps of paper. Some of the sheets appear to be listing out the songs to be performed in a concert. Boxes 23 and 24 contain a wide range of paperback songbooks. Some contain arrangements for instruments, such as guitar or piano. Some are for particular types of vocals (such as low-voice solos) or are for choirs or community singing. Others are just meant for general audiences. Most contain Christian hymns, although a few have popular nonreligious songs. Some are the claimed favorites of well-known soloists or musicians or composers or Christian leaders such as Kurt Kaiser (folders 23-2 and 24-1), Oswald Smith, John Charles Thomas (folder 23-2), John Wright Follette, F. W. Suffield, and Lowell Patton (folder 23-3). Some have Shea’s name written on them, probably to indicate ownership. Folder 24-2 contains a few songbooks prepared by BGEA staff for use in campaigns, such as the 1957 New York meetings and the 1990 Hong Kong meetings. Folder 24-3 contains songbooks that Shea himself compiled. The publishers represented include Rodeheaver Hall-Mack Company, Lillenas Publishing, Manna Music Inc, Walfred Publishing Company, and Van Kampen Press. See also folders 3-6 and 3-7.

Boxes 17 through 22 contain sheet music for individual songs, sometimes with different pages with arrangements for different instruments or voices. There are some printed sheets, but the great majority are printed forms on which the music and words have been handwritten, along with other indications for the singer and/or the musician. Some of the printed sheets on non-Shea compositions have a picture of Shea on the cover, along with a line such as “as sung by George Beverly Shea.” Many of these have Shea’s name stamped on or written. Most are Christian hymns, but there are also a few popular songs, such as “The Shadow of Your Smile.” The sheet music not by Shea is arranged alphabetically by title.

Box 22 contains hymns for which Shea wrote either the music or lyrics or both. These are: “Blue Galilee” (music by Shea, words by Neal A. McAuley, folder 22-8), “I Love Thy Presence, Lord” (music by George Beverly Shea, words by his brother Alton J. Shea, folder 22-9), “I Will Praise Him” (music by Shea, words by Shea and his daughter Elaine Shea Anderson, folder 22-10), “I’d Rather Have Jesus” (music by Shea, words by Rhea F. Miller, folder 22-11), “Sing Me A Song of Sharon’s Rose” (music by Shea, words by Staff Captain Gay of the Salvation Army, folder 22-12), “When the Prodigal Son Comes Home” (music by Shea, words by Will H. Houghton, folder 22-13), and “The Wonder of It All” (words and music by Shea, folder 22-14). These folders contain both printed sheets (usually with Shea’s picture on the cover) and sheets o which the music has been handwritten on blank forms.


The main body of paper materials in this collection was given to the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center Archives by Karlene Shea and Ron Shea in June 2018. The phonograph records, photographs, transcription discs, and videos were acquired by the BGC Archives and Museum from a variety of donors over a period of more than thirty years.

Accessions: 80-96, 87-3, 88-19, 89-55, 91-54, 94-30, 94-33, 97-92, 98-84, 02-12, 06-02, 13-44, 17-32, 17-40, 18-20

BGC Museum Accessions: 1980.0660, 1980.3365, 1980.3503, 1980.4021, 1980.4027, 1980.4081, 1980.4082, 1980.4083, 1980.4084, 1980.4087, 1980.4088, 1980.4089, 1980.4090, 1980.4091, 1980.4094, 1980.4095, 1980.4097, 1993.0490, 1993.0491, 1993.0493, 1993.0494, 1993.0496, 1993.0497, 1993.0498, 1993.0515A-D, 1993.0520A, 1993.0528A-C, 1993.0664, 1993.0781, 1993.0782, 1993.0783A, 1993.0785, 1993.0786, 1993.0787, 1993.0789, 1993.0790,1995.0103A, 1995.0105, 1995.0107, 1995.0170, 1995.0171, 1995.0172, 1996 0146, 2001.0030, 2002.0066, 2002.0068

October 13, 2021

Bob Shuster

B. Hicklin-Campbell

Collection 541 Papers of George Beverly Shea
Bob Shuster
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Roman Script

Repository Details

Part of the Evangelism & Missions Archives Repository

501 College Avenue
Wheaton IL 60187 US