‘I love him like a brother’ : Remembering Cliff Barrows, Billy Graham’s Longtime Music Leader and Friend

Cliff Barrows, music and programme director of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), passed away at the age of 93 on 15 November at the Carolinas Medical Center – Pineville, following a brief illness.

As longtime director of music programming, and later television and radio programming, for Billy Graham Crusades, Barrows travelled the world with Billy Graham since the first Crusade in Grand Rapids, in 1947. Barrows hosted the weekly Hour of Decision radio programme, heard around the world, for more than 60 years.

Barrows and Graham met in 1945 while Barrows was on his honeymoon. The two men soon formed the first team of what was to later become the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and were later joined by the outstanding singer George Beverly Shea.

Billy Graham walking into an Orthodox cathedral in Timisoara, Romania, in 1985
(From left to right) George Beverly Shea, Billy Graham and Cliff Barrows in the late 1940s.

How do you describe a friendship that spanned 60 years, six continents and millions of souls reached for Christ?

The love, respect and camaraderie among Billy Graham, George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows stood the test of time. Together, the preacher, the soloist and the song leader formed the trio at the heart of Billy Graham Crusades, radio programs and television broadcasts from the 1940s until Bev Shea passed away in 2013 at the age of 104.

“We lost the third member of our trio,” Mr. Barrows said at the time, before glancing at Billy Graham. “The two of us don’t sound so good together.”

Just a few weeks before he passed away at age 93, Mr. Barrows recorded several sessions of the Hour of Decision Online—a rebirth of The Hour of Decision radio program, which he hosted from 1950 to 2014 and which was heard on more than 500 radio stations around the world.

In the final episode of the program recorded by Mr. Barrows before his death, his voice rang out, full of warmth and joy.

“Well, how do you do, everyone? Welcome to another Hour of Decision Online.”

Billy Graham walking into an Orthodox cathedral in Timisoara, Romania, in 1985
Cliff Barrows directs a Billy Graham Crusade choir in 1964.

“Cliff Barrows was the voice behind my father for 60 years, emceeing the platform for his Crusades and ‘The Hour of Decision’ radio program,” said Franklin Graham. “Not only was he one of my father’s closest friends, but he was a friend to all of us on the team and in the family. Growing up, and until the day of his death, I called him Uncle Cliff. He was very much a part of our family. My father has said: ‘The remarkable contribution Cliff has made to my ministry cannot be measured in human terms. I love him like a brother.’ His counsel and suggestions were invaluable. He was a great friend and will be missed by all of us. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Ann and the entire Barrows family.”

For his significant contributions to Gospel music, Barrows was inducted into the Nashville Gospel Music Hall of Fame in April 1988 and into the Religious Broadcasting Hall of Fame in February 1996. Barrows was also inducted into the inaugural class of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists’ “Hall of Faith” in 2008.

You can read a biography of Cliff Barrows here. This site also has a number of videos and photos, a statement from Billy Graham and various memorabilia.

A memorial service for Cliff Barrows will be streamed live at 3.30pm UK time on Tuesday 22 November. You can watch it here.