In Memory: The Man Who Brought Harmony to Billy Graham’s Ministry

Music director Cliff Barrows served for decades with a peaceful spirit and joyful song.
In Memory: The Man Who Brought Harmony to Billy Graham’s Ministry
Image: BGEA

When I began work on A Prophet With Honor: The Billy Graham Story back in 1986, I made a list of people I wanted to interview. I asked, “How many of these are still alive and how many are still with the ministry?” The answer: “They are all still alive and they are all still with the ministry.” That wasn’t exactly true, but it was remarkably close. Nearly all the men who started out with Billy Graham in the 1940s were still with him 40 years later, and most of the “newcomers” had been with him for at least a quarter century.

I have since watched the inevitable winnowing of this band of spiritual brothers who held up Graham’s arms over more than seven decades of globe-girdling ministry. Almost all are gone, and the recent death of Cliff Barrows, Graham’s music director, closest friend, and most trusted associate, marks the end of one of the most enduring partnerships in evangelistic history.

The two met in 1945 when Graham, scheduled to speak at a Youth for Christ (YFC) event in Asheville, North Carolina, learned that his regular song leader was not available. Someone suggested he enlist Cliff and Billie Barrows, two young musicians spending their honeymoon in the area. Graham was less than enthusiastic about using an unknown musical team, but he greeted the couple with a smile and said, “No time to be choosy.” The service exceeded expectations and when Graham visited England the next fall for a six-month tour, he invited Cliff and Billie as his musical team.

Barrows joined YFC and enjoyed success not only as a singer and gospel trombonist but also as a gifted evangelist. He intended to continue preaching but accepted the opportunity to assist Graham. Despite ...

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