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Billy Graham crusades singer dies at 104

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- George Beverly Shea, the booming baritone who sang to millions of Christians at evangelist Billy Graham's crusades, died Tuesday after a brief illness. He was 104.

Spokesman Brent Rinehart of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association said the Winchester, Ontario, native died in Asheville after a brief illness. Shea was well-known as a gospel soloist before joining Graham's crusade team in 1947 and stayed until Graham's declining health ended most of the evangelist's public appearances nearly 60 years later.

Besides his distinctive voice, Shea was known for his trademark rendition of "How Great Thou Art" and his inspirational "The Wonder of It All." He performed live before an estimated 200 million at crusades over the years and recorded more than 70 albums.

Graham said at Shea's 100th birthday celebration in February 2009 that he couldn't have had a ministry without Shea. "I first met Bev Shea while in Chicago when he was on Moody Radio," Graham said then. "Bev was one of the most humble, gracious men I have ever known and one of my closest friends. I loved him as a brother."

Shea was the recipient of 10 Grammy nominations, a Grammy in 1965 and a Grammy lifetime achievement award in 2011. He was inducted into the Religious Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 1996 and into the inaugural class of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists' "Hall of Faith" in 2008. -- AP

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