Editor's note: Billy Graham's biographer, William Martin, offered CT his reflections on the life of George Beverly Shea, who died Tuesday at 104. CT offers an obituary with commentary, photos, and videos here.
I can't claim to have known George Beverly Shea well, but several memories—some reported by others, some my own—readily come to mind to provide glimpses of his personality, his character, and his influence.
Billy Graham remembered when he had brought Shea with him on a trip to visit the troops in Vietnam at Christmas time 1966. Graham remembered the trip as a harrowing one:
"Much of the time we were there, it was cloudy and rainy, and we had to fly into these little places where they didn't even have an airport—just a grass strip. Once, conditions were so bad that we couldn't get anybody to fly us. They said, 'you shouldn't fly in this weather,' but I was scheduled, and I said we should go, no matter what the risk. We finally found this colonel who was guts enough to fly us. Several times, it looked like a bad mistake. Once, we came straight toward a mountain in dense clouds. We were in one of those two motor planes with the big hole in the back, and this colonel pulled it up as hard as he could in the backend scrape the trees. I looked over at Bev [Shea] and he was just sitting there. He's never afraid of anything, nothing ever bothers him—no nervousness at all."
During the several crusades I attended while doing research for A Prophet with Honor—The Billy Graham Story, I often had dinner after the service in the restaurant of the hotel where members of the crusade and a number of the ministry's longtime friends were staying. Shea, ...1