Cliff Barrows was finally laid to rest on Tuesday in a memorial service held in Charlotte, N.C. that honored Billy Graham’s music director who, for decades, served God with faithfulness and exuberant joy.
Barrows was known for his love of music and singing songs to God. His grandson Cliff Thomas described him as someone who had the “spontaneous ability … to put a song or verse to anything.”
Barrows and long-time friend Graham traveled together doing crusades in different parts of the world. He would lead the people to sing songs of worship, preparing their hearts for the word that Graham would preach. He also served as the emcee in Graham’s crusades.
“It’s like opening the door to their heart,” he said in a 2010 interview with the Charlotte Observer. “They’ve come from a busy week or from burdens, grief and struggle. And if you can get them to focus on the message of the song and begin to sing, it’s the time in the service that everybody is doing the same thing. Bev (Shea) would sing. And by the time Bill gave the invitation, they were ready to make a commitment to Christ.”
Dr. David Bruce, Graham’s executive assistant, referred to Barrows as the “table setter” who possessed the ability “to prepare the people to hear the word of God.”
"He would set the table ... to the moment when George Beverly Shea would sing and Billy Graham would preach. You could not have had one without the other two.”
Barrows, Graham and Shea later became known as the “Graham trio.”
Barrows and Graham were close friends. They first met in 1945 while Barrows was on his honeymoon, and their ministry partnership began in 1947 at the first Billy Graham Crusade in Michigan.
He became a co-founder of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and was an integral part of the ministry. Graham was once quoted as saying Barrows’ “remarkable contribution” to his ministry “cannot be measured in human terms.”
They enjoyed a closeness like that of brothers. Graham’s nephew Mel Graham recalled how he didn’t realize that his “Uncle Cliff” wasn’t his real uncle until he was older.
Barrows was also famous for hosting the radio show ‘Hour of Decision,’ which ran for more than 60 years and was heard around the world.
A memorial website set up for Barrows gives stories upon stories of how he impacted the lives of people from different walks of life all over the world.
Stephen Jubb, a man from London shared the story of how God used Barrows in the 1960s to help him turn his life around for Christ.
“Spending my off-duty time drunk and gambling, my life was at bottom. One day I saw an ad about Billy Graham coming to London. Something told me I should go but didn’t have a ticket. I sat on the steps to the arena where Billy was preaching and Cliff Barrows came up to me and invited me inside. That was the day my life changed as I gave my life to my Lord,” Jubb wrote.
Barrows passed away from an illness on Nov. 15. He was 93 years old. His friends and family said he wanted a simple funeral. He did not want people to focus their attention on him.
However, he had one request, according to his friend Tom Bledsoe.
“He would say, 'I want a lot of music, and I want the people to sing,'” Bledsoe said. And so, at the request of Barrows, Bledsoe led the choir to sing the song that was perhaps most associated with his good friend: ‘Blessed Assurance.’
“This is my story, this is my song. Praising my savior all the day long,” the people sang at the memorial service in praise to Jesus. And even as he was laid to rest, Barrows gave the honor to God.