Singer George Beverly Shea, a worldwide legend of The Wesleyan Church, has laid down his microphone for the last time.

Shea, who grew up in a Wesleyan parsonage and attended IWU’s Wesleyan sister institution, Houghton College, sang for more than 220 million people in his life and was a soloist at many of the Rev. Billy Graham’s evangelistic rallies. He received a standing ovation at the 2010 Grammy Awards when he received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy (his second win at the Grammy Awards, at which he received ten nominations over the years). He died late last night at the age of 104 after a brief illness.

Christian leaders and performers around the world are offering tributes to Shea. Janell Nov, a 2000 IWU alumna, is Shea’s great-niece.

“I’m so thankful that Uncle Bev chose to serve and honor Jesus above anything and everything!” Nov wrote on Facebook this morning. “He is with Jesus now singing with the saints after being on this earth for 104 years! We miss him already but are thankful for his example.”

Dr. Todd Guy, Chair of the Division of Music and director of the IWU Chorale, remembers Shea as a seminal influence on gospel music.

“He had a unique way of ministering through music,” Guy said. “His music told stories that led you to the foot of the cross.”

“And his gospel songs really spoke to people. I mean, when I think of ‘I’d Rather Have Jesus,’ that piece is just one that so many people have used to strengthen their salvation. So many people have come to the Lord through those types of songs, and those types of songs have helped people in defining their faith.”

Featured image credit: ChrisEngelsma (source)