NOV. 25, 2016
His death was announced by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
“Cliff Barrows has led more people in singing than any other man in the world,” Mr. Graham said in 1992.
The pairing of the two men was serendipitous. Mr. Barrows and his first wife, Billie, a pianist and singer, were on their honeymoon in North Carolina in 1945, arriving from California, when they were recruited to join a Graham event, a Youth for Christ rally, as last-minute stand-ins for Mr. Graham’s regular song leader, who had been summoned to Chicago.
The collaboration was so successful that Mr. Barrows merged his own ministry with Mr. Graham’s, beginning their long association.
He went on to direct programs in which Mr. Graham preached to more than 200 million people in more than 415 crusades in 185 countries from 1947 through 2005.
Mr. Barrows led onstage choirs with stopwatch precision for the 40 minutes or so before he would introduce Mr. Graham as “God’s man for this hour.” (The third member of their original trio was the baritone George Beverly Shea, who died in 2013.)
Mr. Barrows was also the host of the weekly program “Hour of Decision,” broadcast on radio for six decades and later available online. He recorded his last program in October.
“Cliff Barrows was arguably the most crucial teammate Billy ever recruited,” Harold Myra and Marshall Shelley wrote in 2005 in “The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham.” “He was a skilled and charismatic emcee and musician, leading the program in giant gatherings, a creative force in leading new initiatives, a candid counselor, and a man who knew how to both follow and lead.”
Mr. Graham, who is 98 and was too frail to attend Mr. Barrows’s funeral, said in a statement last week, “There wouldn’t be a Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in the way it is today without him.”
Mr. Graham’s son Franklin, who now runs the association, described Mr. Barrows as “the voice behind my father for 60 years.”
William Martin, the author of the 1991 biography “A Prophet With Honor: The Billy Graham Story,” described Mr. Barrows in Christianity Today magazine as Mr. Graham’s “closest friend and most trusted associate.” His death, he said, “marks the end of one of the most enduring partnerships in evangelistic history.”
Clifford Barton Barrows was born on April 6, 1923, in Ceres, Calif., just south of Modesto, to Harriet and Charles Tilson Barrows.
Tutored by an aunt who was a pianist and composer, he embarked on his musical career at the local Baptist church. In 1944 he graduated from Bob Jones College in Tennessee (now Bob Jones University in South Carolina) with a bachelor of arts degree in sacred music and Shakespearean drama. Later ordained a Baptist minister, he served briefly as an assistant pastor in St. Paul before beginning an evangelical ministry.
Mr. Barrows characterized Christianity as “a singing faith” and said that “a good way to express it and share it with others is in community singing.” He sang, led others in song and taught them to sing.
“My dad taught me the best lesson,” he told The Charlotte Observer in 2010. “I evidently wanted to get them to sing a little stronger, so I kind of bawled them out. And my dad said: ‘Son, you did pretty well. But let me give you a little tip: You’ll never get people to sing better by telling them they didn’t do too good. Tell them they did well, but you think they can do better.’ “
The Billy Graham crusade that Mr. Barrows said he recalled most fondly was in 1957 at Madison Square Garden in New York, a city where skeptics predicted an evangelistic preacher would flop. But the scheduled six-week revival was extended to 16 weeks and drew an estimated two million people.
Mr. Barrows was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1988, the National Religious Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1996 and the Conference of Southern Baptists Evangelists Hall of Faith in 2008.
His first wife, the former Wilma Newell, died in 1994. He is survived by his second wife, the former Ann Prince; five children from his first marriage, Bonnie Thomas, Betty Seera and Robert, Clifford and William Barrows; two stepchildren, Tal Prince and Dana Shillington; 19 grandchildren; and 21 great-grandchildren.
As his longtime boss, Mr. Graham was more than satisfied with Mr. Barrows’s work. “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,” Mr. Graham wrote in his 1973 autobiography, “Just as I Am.”
And for Mr. Graham, the collaboration could never be anything but lifelong. In a television interview in 2005, Mr. Barrows recalled a conversation with Mr. Graham: “I remember the day I said to him, ‘Bill, as long as you want me, I’ll be available to you to do whatever you want me to do.’ And he said, ‘Cliff, let’s just pray the Lord will keep us together till we give out or he gives up on us or he takes us home.’ “
Speaking to his son Will, Mr. Graham once predicted that when he and Mr. Barrows both got to heaven, he would wind up sidelined, having no one to preach to but the already converted. On the other hand, he said, Mr. Barrows would be leading the angels in song. “I’ll be out of work,” Graham said, “but not Cliff.”