(Photo: A. Larry Ross Communications)
Today, the man deemed by many as "America's Beloved Gospel Singer," George Beverly Shea, turns 103.
Shea's smooth baritone voice has made him a household name in the Gospel singing world. Born Feb. 1, 1909 in Winchester, Ontario to a Wesleyan Methodist preacher, Shea first began his singing career as a member of the choir at his father's Church.
Shea is most known for his close friendship with evangelist Billy Graham, who has gained a large following in the Christian community through his powerful sermons, broadcasted on both radio and television.
Shea has worked at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association since 1943, traveling around the world to sing solo performances at Billy Graham's Evangelistic Crusades. As a result, he has sung in every continent and in every state of the union. Shea has recorded more than 70 albums of hymns.
The centenarian has received ten Grammy award nominations, two Grammy awards, and a lifetime achievement award from The Recording Academy during Grammy Week 2011. He was also inducted into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame in 1978.
Shea holds the Guinness Book of World Records for a live performance before the most people. In light of all his success, Shea remains humble, previously telling The Christian Post:
"You know, I got in the Guinness Book of Records saying that I sung in person to 210 million people. But I just have to say that they didn't come to hear me, they came to see Billy Graham."
Billy Graham has said of "Bev" Shea: "I've been listening to Bev Shea sing for more than 50 years, and I would still rather hear him sing than anyone else I know."
Shea lives with his wife, Karlene, in North Carolina, about one mile away from his lifelong friend Billy Graham.
In his characteristic youthful optimism, Shea exclaimed to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Monday: "Karlene and I rejoice in the Lord's overwhelming grace to give me 103 years of life!"