“The Christian faith is a singing faith, and a good way to express it and share it with others is in community singing.” These are the words of the late Cliff Barrows, music and program director of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, who led congregational singing and Crusade choirs around the world with Billy Graham.
Mr. Barrows first met Mr. Graham while on his honeymoon with his first wife, Billie (also deceased), near Asheville, N.C., in 1945. Music played a significant role in the programming of Billy Graham Crusades, for which Mr. Barrows was responsible since they formally began in Grand Rapids, Mich., in 1947. Together, he and Mr. Graham shared the Gospel around the globe.
From the beginning of Mr. Graham’s Crusade ministry, George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows were the nucleus of the Crusade musical team. They were joined in 1950 by pianist Tedd Smith, and through the years, organists Don Hustad and John Innes provided additional accompaniment.
“I’ve had no greater joy than encouraging people to sing,” said Mr. Barrows. “Every great moving of the Spirit of God has been accompanied by great singing. I believe it will always be so!”
Mr. Barrows remained active in his later years in the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He hosted the weekly Hour of Decision radio program for more than 60 years. Up until his passing, he hosted the Hour of Decision Online Internet radio program, which posts weekly on BillyGraham.org. He also served on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Board of Directors since 1950.
In addition to singing at Franklin Graham Festivals and Will Graham Celebrations, Mr. Barrows regularly hosted SeniorCelebrations and Christmas at The Cove, three-day events geared toward seniors at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, N.C. He also helped with BGEA’s Schools of Evangelism ministry for more than 40 years.
For significant contributions to Gospel music, Mr. 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. Mr. Barrows was also inducted, along with Billy Graham and soloist George Beverly Shea, into the inaugural class of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists’ “Hall of Faith” in 2008.
“His uncanny ability to lead a Crusade choir of thousands of voices or an audience of a hundred thousand voices in a great hymn or Gospel chorus is absolutely unparalleled,” writes Billy Graham in his autobiography, Just As I Am. “But all of that talent is not the secret of Cliff’s effectiveness,” he writes later. “It is his humility and his willingness to be a servant, which spring from his devotional life and his daily walk with Christ.”
Memorization of Scripture was a significant part of Mr. Barrows’ walk with Christ. Even when he couldn’t read in his later years due to deteriorating vision, he would have God’s Word read aloud to him so he could memorize it. Quoting his life verse (Phil 3:10), Mr. Barrows’ heart’s cry was always to “know Christ and the power of his resurrection.”
Mr. Barrows was born and reared in Ceres, Calif. He was married to his first wife, Billie, for nearly 50 years. Then God brought Mr. Barrows and his second wife, Ann, together following the death of both of their spouses to cancer.
Mr. Barrows had five children: Bonnie, 1948; Robert, 1950; Betty Ruth, 1953; Clifford (Bud), 1955; and William Burton, 1962.