Dad and I were delighted to hear KHCB announce that George Beverly Shea turned 100 years old yesterday. He is celebrating his birthday today at The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove with family and friends. The timing was perfect to celebrate my latest Goodwill purchase: a brand new copy of How Sweet the Sound, written by Mr. Shea, along with a CD. In the video, Mr. Shea sings a wonderful song that he wrote before I was born, “The Wonder of It All.”
When I read that Mr. Shea holds the world record for singing to the most people in person, I asked Dad if he was one of the millions who had personally heard Mr. Shea sing. “Yes, in Fort Worth, in 1951,” he replied, “right before I went into the army. Mr. and Mrs. Byrum of First Baptist in Frederick (Oklahoma) arranged the trip for our Sunday school class. We went by car to the Fort Worth Coliseum and heard Billy Graham preach, and George Beverly Shea sing.”
Dad was a member of First Baptist in Frederick for about a year when he was a feed salesman for the Moorman Manufacturing Company. Mr. and Mrs. T. P. Byrum were department heads of the Young Adult Department. “Mr. and Mrs. Byrum were good to me,” Dad recalled. “I remember that they liked me.”
A short time later, I spoke on the telephone with Mr. J. M. Cope, 83-year-old nephew of the Byrum’s. Mr. Cope and his wife have been members of First Baptist, Frederick, since 1947. He described his uncle’s Young Adult class in the 1950s as a “happening place.” Mr. Byrum passed away several years ago, but his 99-year-old widow is in good health, with the exception of a knee that’s giving her problems.
Dad doubts that Mrs. Byrum would remember him, but he remembers the couple well. “I was living on my own, away from family, and their kindness made a difference.”