Organist for Graham crusades, Donald Hustad, dies
Jul 2, 2013

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) -- Donald Paul Hustad, organist for Billy Graham crusades and longtime professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, died June 22, according to his family. He was 94. 

Hustad, who taught at Southern Seminary for 40 years, leaves a legacy as one of evangelicalism's most significant and influential musicians, SBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said.

"Don Hustad was one of the giants of Christian music of the 20th century -- an almost iconic figure whose personal ministry and professional artistry were combined in such a powerful way," Mohler said. Hustad's work with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, the Moody Bible Institute and Southern Seminary "place him at the center of some of the most important events and institutions in evangelical history," Mohler said. "He was an artist, gentleman, warmhearted believer and a great servant of the church."

Hustad first encountered Billy Graham, who was at the time pastor of a small Baptist church in Western Springs, Ill., when he became the organist for the radio show, "Songs in the Night," which aired many of Graham's sermons. The late George Beverly Shea, longtime Graham crusade soloist, was the program's featured soloist. Hustead had worked with Shea years earlier at Chicago's WMBI radio station.

Shea, recalling his first meeting of Hustad in his book "Then Sings My Soul," wrote:

"Another audition I remember was set up by Aunt Theresa, who had a friend 'who should be playing organ for WMBI.' When we heard him play one number we knew she was right. Don Hustad was hired on the spot." 

In 1961 Hustad became team organist for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He played during the Graham crusades and directed the men's choir for the "Hour of Decision" radio broadcasts. He worked with the association until 1967 when he moved to Louisville, Ky., to serve as professor of church music at Southern Seminary. 

Hustad was born to Clara and Peter Hustad on Oct 2, 1918, in Yellow Medicine County, Minn. Following his father's death, the family moved to Boone, Iowa, and lived in an institution for indigenous people. Since the family could not pay for their stay, Clara Hustad and her sons had to work.

In a 1987 interview with his biographer, Rhonda S. Furr, Hustad said: "I have to be grateful for this particular circumstance in my life because the chances are that had my father not been killed tragically, and had I not gone to this institution, I would never have been a musician. I would probably have been a happy farmer in western Minnesota."

At age 8, Hustad played hymns in worship services and improvised accompaniments for the institution's Christian radio station. According to Furr, by the end of grade school, Hustad had mastered Beethoven's "Pathetique" Sonata, opus 13, Mendelssohn's "Rondo Capriccioso" and Liszt's transcription of the second "Hungarian Rhapsody." 

Following his graduation from John Fletcher College in University Park, Iowa, in 1940, Hustad became staff musician of Chicago's WMBI where he worked with Shea on a weekly broadcast called "Club Time."

In February 1942, Hustad met Ruth McKeag in a local Baptist church. He later told Furr that he "met her on that occasion and fell head over heels in love. It really didn't matter that she was engaged to someone else at the moment." The attraction was mutual and the couple started dating, became engaged and married within the year. 

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