Wilma Irene “Billie” Newell was born on January 4, 1925 in Macomb, Illinois. Her father was a minister, and she grew up learning the long-beloved hymns of Christianity. She became an accomplished musician and received a Bachelor of Arts in Sacred Music.
In 1945, Billie married her college sweetheart, Cliff Barrows. While on her honeymoon, she first met Billy Graham at a rally he was holding in Asheville, North Carolina. Cliff and Billie joined Billy’s Crusade team shortly after that meeting (where Cliff led the music when the worship leader failed to show). Billie traveled with the Crusades for five years, singing and playing the piano and organ. In 1949, during the watershed Los Angeles Billy Graham Crusade, Billie worked long and hard hours like everyone on the team. In his autobiography Just As I Am, Billy Graham says of her, “Billie Barrows at the piano worked as hard as any of us.”
In 1950, Billie recognized how important it was that she remain at home with her growing family, and she took a break from traveling to raise her five children.
Billie Barrows is featured in the newest special display at the Billy Graham Library, “Then Sings My Soul.” To find out more about this exhibit running through July, click here.