Skip to main content

Collection 463 Oral History Interview with Cliff Barrows

Identifier: CN 463

Scope and Contents

Oral history interview with Clifford Burton Barrows (1923-2016), evangelist and long-time song-leader and choir director with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, in which he describes experiences which have influenced his work; the place of music in evangelism; trends in current Christian music; role of music in Billy Graham crusade services. Other topics discussed include: Barrow’s musical training; influence of Oliver Steiner and Homer Rodeheaver; and the commercialization of contemporary Christian music. The time period covered by the interviews is approximately 1923 to 1992.

Cliff Barrows was interviewed by Wheaton College music major Kerry Cox on October 10, 1992, at the Billy Graham Center Archives at Wheaton College.


  • Created: 1992

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.

Biographical Information

Full Name: Clifford Burton Barrows; generally known as “Cliff”

Birth: April 6, 1923 in Ceres, California


Parents: Charles Tilson and Harriet M. Barrows

Siblings: 4, all younger

Marital Status: Wilma “Billie” Newell, 1945-1994 (deceased);  Ann Prince, 1995-

Children: Bonnie, Robert, Betty Ruth, Clifford (Bud), William Burton

Conversion: At the age of 11 in church, when the pastor preached on the Bible verse John 3:16

Ordination: 1944, ordained a Baptis6t minister in at the First Baptist Church in Ceres, California

Education: 1944, Graduated from Bob Jones University with a A.B. in Sacred Music and Shakespearean Drama


Late 1930s: Received call to full-time Christian service in music while in high school

1940s?: Served as song leader for evangelist Jack Shuler at several of his meetings

1944-1945: Assistant pastor, Temple Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

1945-1948: Youth for Christ evangelist and song leader, later a vice-president in the organization; traveled throughout North America and the United Kingdom. In January 1946, he became a full-time YFC field worker; from late 1946 on he usually worked with Billy Graham

1945: He and his newlywed wife were attending a Youth for Christ rally in Asheville, North Carolina where Billy Graham was speaking. The scheduled song leader and piano player was not able to attend and the Barrows filled in, beginning a close life long association with Graham. He served as music director, song leader and master of ceremonies at almost all of Graham’s evangelistic meetings

1948-1950: Began serving exclusively as the music director for Billy Graham meetings

1950-Member and officer of the board of directors of the BGEA since its incorporation. He was one of the leading and best known members of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) from its formation, particularly concerned in its film and radio work, but involved in the planning of all aspects of the Association’s ministry

1965-1970: President of World Wide Pictures, the film arm of the BGEA

Other significant information:

1968: Received honorary doctoral degree from John Brown University, Siloam Springs, Arkansas, USA

1982: The auditorium at the Billy Graham Center of Wheaton College, in Wheaton, Illinois, USA was named Barrows Auditorium in his honor.

1986: In August had acoustic neuroma surgery that resulted in deafness in the left ear. He was unable to attend the two evangelistic crusades in the fall of that year but then resumed his duties as music director

1988: Inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee, USA

1996: Inducted into the Religious Broadcasting Hall of Fame during the February meeting of National Religious Broadcasters.

Was the compiler of many hymn books of evangelistic songs, some of which were prepared for specific BGEA evangelistic campaigns.


1 Audio Tape

32 Minutes

Language of Materials


Accruals and Additions

The materials in this collection were given to the Billy Graham Center Archives by Cliff Barrows and Kerry Cox in October 1992.

Accession: 92-127

May 20, 1998

Robert Shuster

Collection 463 Oral History Interview with Cliff Barrows
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