Billy Graham
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William Franklin "Billy" Graham, Jr. (born November 7, 1918) is an American Christianevangelist, ordained as a Southern Baptist minister, who rose to celebrity status in 1949 with the national media backing of William Randolph Hearst and Henry Luce. His sermons were broadcast on radio and television, some still being re-broadcast today.
Graham is notable for having been a spiritual adviser to several United States Presidents; he was particularly close to Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard M. Nixon.[2] During the civil rights movement, he began to support integrated seating for his revivals and crusades; in 1957 he invited Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. to preach jointly at a huge revival in New York City, where they appeared together at Madison Square Garden, and bailed the minister out of jail in the 1960s when he was arrested in demonstrations.
Graham operates a variety of media and publishing outlets.[3] According to his staff, more than 3.2 million people have responded to the invitation at Billy Graham Crusades to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. As of 2008, Graham's estimated lifetime audience, including radio and television broadcasts, topped 2.2 billion.[3]
Graham has repeatedly been on Gallup's list of most admired men and women. He has appeared on the list 55 times since 1955 (including 49 consecutive years), more than any other individual in the world.[4]
Early life
Named after his father and born November 7, 1918, he is the first son of Morrow (née Coffey; 1892–1981) and William Franklin Graham, Sr. (1888–1962); he grew up on the family dairy farm near Charlotte, North Carolina. Called Billy, he was raised in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church by his parents and was of Scottish descent.[5][6] In 1933, when Prohibition in the United States ended, Graham's father forced Billy and his sister Katherine to drink beer until they got sick, which created such an aversion that both avoided alcohol and drugs the rest of their lives.[7]
After Graham was turned down for membership in a local youth group because he was "too worldly,"[7] Albert McMakin, who worked on the Graham farm, persuaded the youth to go see Mordecai Ham, an evangelist.[3] According to his autobiography, Graham was converted in 1934 at age 16 during a series of revival meetings in Charlotte led by the evangelist.[8]
After graduating from Sharon High School in May 1936, Graham attended Bob Jones College, located in Cleveland, Tennessee. After one semester, he found it too legalistic in both coursework and rules.[7] At this time, he was influenced and inspired by Pastor Charley Young from Eastport Bible Church. He was almost expelled, but Bob Jones, Sr. warned him not to throw his life away: "At best, all you could amount to would be a poor country Baptist preacher somewhere out in the sticks.... You have a voice that pulls. God can use that voice of yours. He can use it mightily."[7]
In 1937, Graham transferred to the Florida Bible Institute (now Trinity College of Florida). (Today's Florida College is now located at that site in Temple Terrace, Florida.) In his autobiography, Graham wrote of receiving his "calling on the 18th green of the Temple Terrace Golf and Country Club," which is immediately in front of today's Sutton Hall at Florida College. Reverend Billy Graham Memorial Park was established on the Hillsborough River directly east of the 18th green and across from where Graham often paddled a canoe to a small island in the river, where he would preach to the birds, alligators, and cypress stumps. Graham eventually graduated from Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois with a degree in anthropology in 1943.[9]
It was during his time at Wheaton that Graham decided to accept the Bible as the infallible word of God. Henrietta Mears of the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood (Hollywood, California) was instrumental in helping Graham wrestle with the issue. He settled it at Forest Home Christian camp (now called Forest Home Ministries) southeast of the Big Bear area in Southern California.[10] A memorial there marks the site of Graham's decision.
On August 13, 1943, Graham married Wheaton classmate Ruth Bell (1920–2007), whose parents were Presbyterianmissionaries in China. Her father L. Nelson Bell was a general surgeon. Graham met Ruth at Wheaton: "I saw her walking down the road towards me and I couldn't help but stare at her as she walked. She looked at me and our eyes met and I felt that she was definitely the woman I wanted to marry." Ruth thought that he "wanted to please God more than any man I'd ever met."[11] They married two months after graduation and later lived in a log cabin designed by Ruth in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Montreat, North Carolina.[7] Ruth died on June 14, 2007, at the age of 87.
They had five children together: Virginia Leftwich (Gigi) Graham Tchividjian (born 1945; an inspirational speaker and author); Anne Graham Lotz (born 1948; runs AnGeL ministries); Ruth Graham (born 1950; founder and president of Ruth Graham & Friends, leads conferences throughout the U.S. and Canada); Franklin Graham (born 1952), who serves as president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and as president and CEO of international relief organization, Samaritan's Purse;[12] and Nelson Edman Graham (born 1958; a pastor who runs East Gates Ministries International,[13] which distributes Christian literature in China). Graham has 19 grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren. His grandson TullianTchividjian is senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
To ensure no one mistook his actions, Graham had a policy to avoid being alone with any woman other than his wife Ruth. This has come to be known as the Billy Graham Rule.[14]
While attending college, Graham became pastor of the United Gospel Tabernacle and also had other preaching engagements.
Graham served briefly as pastor of the Village Church in Western Springs, Illinois, not far from Wheaton, in 1943-44. While there, his friend Torrey Johnson, pastor of the Midwest Bible Church in Chicago, told Graham that his radio program "Songs in the Night" was about to be canceled for lack of funding. Consulting with the members of his church in Western Springs, Graham decided to take over Johnson's program with financial support from his parishioners. Launching the new radio program on January 2, 1944, still called Songs in the Night, Graham recruited the baritoneGeorge Beverly Shea as his director of radio ministry. While the radio ministry continued for many years, Graham decided to move on in early 1945. In 1947, at age 30, he was hired as president of Northwestern Bible College in St. Paul, Minnesota, the youngest person to serve as college president. Graham served as the president of Northwestern Bible College from 1948 to 1952.[15]
Initially, Graham intended to become a chaplain in the armed forces but, shortly after applying for a commission, contracted mumps. After a period of recuperation in Florida, Graham was hired as the first full-time evangelist of the new Youth for Christ International (YFCI), co-founded by Torrey Johnson and the Canadian evangelist Charles Templeton. Graham traveled throughout both the United States and Europe as an YFCI evangelist. Unlike many evangelists, Graham had little formal theological training. Templeton applied to Princeton Theological Seminary for an advanced theological degree and urged Graham to do so as well, but the evangelist declined. He was already serving as the president of Northwestern Bible College.[7][15]
Hearst support
Graham scheduled a series of revival meetings in Los Angeles in 1949, for which he erected circus tents in a parking lot.[3] He was given national coverage by the news mogul William Randolph Hearst. Scholars such as Ben Bagdikian believe that Hearst liked Graham's patriotism and appeals to youth; he thought the evangelist would help promote Hearst's conservative anti-communist views.[16] The scholar Randall E. King notes that Hearst and Graham never met.[17] Hearst sent a telegram to his newspaper editors: "Puff Graham" during the Los Angeles crusade and within five days, he gained national coverage.[17][18] With such media attention, the crusade event ran for eight weeks—five weeks longer than planned. Graham became a national figure.[19]Henry Luce also promoted Graham with coverage at this time, and by 1954 featured him on the cover of his magazine TIME.[18]
Since his ministry began in 1947, Graham conducted more than 400 crusades in 185 countries and territories on six continents. The first Billy Graham Crusade, held Sept. 13-21, 1947, in the Civic Auditorium in Grand Rapids, Mich., was attended by 6,000 people. Graham was 29 years old. He called them crusades, after the medieval Christian forces who tried to conquer Jerusalem. He would rent a large venue, such as a stadium, park, or street. As the sessions got larger, he arranged a group of up to 5,000 people to sing in a choir. He would preach the gospel and invite people to come forward (a practice begun by Dwight L. Moody). Such people were called inquirers and were given the chance to speak one-on-one with a counselor, to clarify questions and pray together. The inquirers were often given a copy of the Gospel of John or a Bible study booklet. In Moscow in 1992, one-quarter of the 155,000 people in Graham's audience went forward at his call.[7] During his crusades, he has frequently used the altar call song, "Just As I Am".[20]
Graham was offered a five-year, $5 million contract from NBC to appear on television opposite Arthur Godfrey, but he turned it down in favor of continuing his touring revivals because of his prearranged commitments.[11] Graham had missions in London, which lasted 12 weeks, and a New York City mission in Madison Square Garden in 1957, which ran nightly for 16 weeks.
Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
In 1950, Graham founded the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association with its headquarters in Minneapolis. The association later relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina. BGEA Ministries have included:

  • Hour of Decision, a weekly radio program broadcast around the world for more than 50 years
  • Mission television specials broadcast in almost every market in the US and Canada
  • A syndicated newspaper column, My Answer, carried by newspapers across the United States and distributed by Tribune Media Services
  • Decision magazine, the official publication of the Association
  • Christianity Today was started in 1956 with Carl F. H. Henry as its first editor
  •, the website for a children's program created by BGEA
  • World Wide Pictures, which has produced and distributed more than 130 films

Civil rights movement
Graham with Martin Luther King, Jr.
Graham had shown little concern for segregation until the civil rights movement began to receive national attention in the early 1950s. Many of his early crusades were segregated. In response to the civil rights movement, Graham began to adjust his approach but was inconsistent, refusing to speak in some segregated auditoriums, while speaking to segregated audiences at others. In 1953 he tore down the ropes that organizers had erected to separate the audience into racial sections; he recounted in his memoirs that he told two ushers to leave the barriers down "or you can go on and have the revival without me."[21] But, he later acceded to segregated seating at Dallas, Texas and Asheville, North Carolina. He sometimes preached that the Bible said nothing about segregation,[22] and another time warned a white audience, "we have been proud and thought we were better than any other race, any other people. Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to stumble into hell because of our pride."[23] After the 1954 US Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education that public school segregation was unconstitutional, Graham insisted on integrated seating at his revivals.
From the mid-1950s on, Graham became increasingly opposed to segregation and racism, while keeping his eye on public opinion. For instance, in 1957 he invited Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. to join him in the pulpit at his 16-week revival in New York City, where 2.3 million gathered at Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium, and Times Square to hear them.[3] Graham never appeared publicly again with King, but he posted bail for the minister to get him released from jail in 1963 during the civil rights protests in Birmingham.[24]
Graham's faith prompted his maturing view of race and segregation; the minister told one member of the KKK that integration was necessary primarily for religious reasons: "there is no scriptural basis for segregation," Graham argued, "The ground at the foot of the cross is level, and it touches my heart when I see whites standing shoulder to shoulder with blacks at the cross."[25]
[edit] Later years
Graham with his son, Franklin, at Cleveland Stadium, June 1994
Graham's visibility and popularity extended into the secular world. He created his own pavilion for the 1964 New York World's Fair.[26] He appeared as a guest on a 1969 Woody Allen television special, where he joined the comedian in a witty exchange on theological matters.[27] During the Cold War, Graham became the first evangelist of note to speak behind the Iron Curtain, addressing large crowds in countries throughout Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union, calling for peace.[28] During the Apartheid era, Graham consistently refused to visit South Africa until its government allowed integrated seating for audiences. During his first crusade there in 1973, he openly denounced apartheid.[29]
Billy Graham in het Feyenoord stadion.ogg


Billy Graham at the Feyenoord-stadion in Rotterdam, The Netherlands (June 30, 1955)
In 1984, he led a series of summer meetings in the United Kingdom, called Mission England, using outdoor football grounds as venues.
Graham was interested in fostering evangelism around the world. In 1983, 1986 and 2000 he sponsored, organized and paid for massive training conferences for Christian evangelists from around the world; with the largest representations of nations ever held until that time. Over 157 nations were gathered in 2000 at the RAI Convention Center in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. At one revival in Seoul, South Korea, Graham attracted more than one million people to a single service.[11] He appeared in China in 1988—for Ruth, this was a homecoming, since she had been born in China to missionary parents. He appeared in North Korea in 1992.[25]
On September 22, 1991 Graham held his largest event in North America on the Great Lawn of New York's Central Park. City officials estimated more than 250,000 in attendance. In 1998, Graham spoke at TED (conference) to a crowd of scientists and philosophers.
On September 14, 2001, in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, Graham was invited to lead a service at Washington National Cathedral, which was attended by President George W. Bush and past and present leaders. He also spoke at the memorial service following the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.[25] On June 24–26, 2005, Billy Graham began what he has said would be his last North American crusade, three days at the Flushing Meadows–Corona Park in New York City. But on the weekend of March 11–12, 2006, Billy Graham held the "Festival of Hope" with his son, Franklin Graham. The festival was held in New Orleans, which was recovering from Hurricane Katrina.
Health problems
Dr. Graham has suffered from Parkinson's disease for about 15 years, has had hydrocephalus, pneumonia, broken hips, prostate cancer and bronchitis.
The 93-year-old also was hospitalized for pneumonia November 2011, six months after being admitted to a hospital for the same condition.[30]
Graham was admitted to Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina August 12, 2012 for treatment of a pulmonaryinfection believed to be bronchitis. He was released and went home on August 14, after a two-day stay.[31]
Graham said that his planned retirement was because of his failing health. In August 2005, Graham appeared at the groundbreaking for his library in Charlotte, North Carolina. Then 86, Reverend Graham used a walker during the ceremony. On July 9, 2006, Graham spoke at the Metro Maryland Franklin Graham Festival, held in Baltimore, Maryland, at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
In April 2010, Graham, at 91 and with substantial vision and hearing loss, made a rare public appearance at the re-dedication of the renovated Billy Graham Library.[32]
There had been controversy over his proposed burial place; he announced in June 2007 that he and his wife would be buried alongside each other at the Billy Graham Library in his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. Graham's younger son Ned had argued with older son Franklin about whether burial at a library would be appropriate. Ruth Graham had said that she wanted to be buried not in Charlotte but in the mountains near Asheville, North Carolina, where she had lived for many years; Ned supported his mother's choice.[33] Novelist Patricia Cornwell, a family friend, also opposed burial at the library, calling it a tourist attraction. Franklin wanted his parents to be buried at the library site.[33] At the time of Ruth Graham's death, it was announced that they would be buried at the library site.
Billy Graham has preached Christianity to live audiences of nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories through various meetings, including BMS World Mission and Global Mission. Graham has also reached hundreds of millions more through television, video, film, and webcasts.[34]
Politically, Graham is a registered member of the Democratic Party.[35] He leaned Republican during the presidency of Richard Nixon.[17] He did not completely ally himself with the religious right, saying that Jesus did not have a political party.[7] He did not openly endorse political candidates, but he gave his support to some over the years.[17]
He refused to join Jerry Falwell'sMoral Majority in 1979, saying: "I'm for morality, but morality goes beyond sex to human freedom and social justice. We as clergy know so very little to speak with authority on the Panama Canal or superiority of armaments. Evangelists cannot be closely identified with any particular party or person. We have to stand in the middle in order to preach to all people, right and left. I haven't been faithful to my own advice in the past. I will be in the future."[25]
According to a 2006 Newsweek interview, "For Graham, politics is a secondary to the Gospel.... When Newsweek asked Graham whether ministers—whether they think of themselves as evangelists, pastors or a bit of both—should spend time engaged with politics, he replied: 'You know, I think in a way that has to be up to the individual as he feels led of the Lord. A lot of things that I commented on years ago would not have been of the Lord, I'm sure, but I think you have some—like communism, or segregation, on which I think you have a responsibility to speak out.'".[36]


Pastor to presidents
President Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan greet Graham at the National Prayer Breakfast of 1981
Graham has had a personal audience with many sitting US presidents from Harry S. Truman to Barack Obama. Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton sought his counsel, as did the Bush family.[19] After meeting with Truman in 1950, Graham told the press he had urged the president to counter communism in North Korea. Later he always treated his conversations with presidents as confidential.[17] Truman disliked him and did not speak with him for years after that meeting.[7] Graham was criticized by some for being too attracted to the seat of political power.
Merle Miller quotes Truman on Graham in his oral biography Plain Speaking:
But now we've got just this one evangelist, this Billy Graham, and he's gone off the beam. He's...well, I hadn’t ought to say this, but he’s one of those counterfeits I was telling you about. He claims he's a friend of all the Presidents, but he was never a friend of mine when I was President. I just don’t go for people like that. All he's interested in is getting his name in the paper.[37]
Graham became a regular visitor during the tenure of Dwight D. Eisenhower. He purportedly urged him to intervene with federal troops in the case of the Little Rock Nine to gain admission of black students to public schools.[7] At that time he met and would become close friends with Vice President Richard Nixon.[17] After a special law was passed in 1952, Graham conducted the first religious service on the steps of the Capitol building.[7] Eisenhower asked for Graham while on his deathbed.[38]
The preacher enjoyed a friendship with Nixon. He supported him over John F. Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election.[7] Graham met with a conference of Protestant ministers in Montreux, Switzerland during the 1960 campaign, to discuss their mobilizing congregations to defeat Kennedy, as he was worried about a Catholic president. He kept his opposition secret and did not comment publicly on the election.[39] Graham was more sympathetic to Republican administrations.[17][40]
He spent the last night of Johnson's presidency in the White House, and he stayed for the first night of Nixon's.[38] After Nixon's victorious 1968 presidential campaign, Graham became an adviser, regularly visiting the White House and leading the president's private worship services.[17] In a meeting they had with Golda Meir, Nixon offered Graham the ambassadorship to Israel, but he refused.[7]
Billy Graham meeting with President Barack Obama in Montreat, 2010
In 1970 Nixon appeared at a Graham revival in East Tennessee, which they thought safe politically. It drew one of the largest crowds in Tennessee and protesters against the Vietnam War. Nixon was the first president to give a speech from an evangelist's platform.[17] Their friendship became strained in 1973 when Graham rebuked Nixon for his post-Watergate behavior and the profanity heard on the Watergate tapes;[41] they eventually reconciled after Nixon's resignation.[17]
Graham officiated at one presidential burial and one presidential funeral. He presided over the graveside services of President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1973 and took part in eulogizing the former president. Graham officiated at the funeral services of former First Lady Pat Nixon in 1993,[7] and the death and funeral of Richard Nixon in 1994.
On April 25, 2010, President Barack Obama visited Rev. Graham at his home in Montreat, North Carolina where they “had a private prayer.”[42]
Foreign policy views
Graham has been outspoken against communism and supportive of US Cold War policy, including the Vietnam War. In a 1999 speech, Graham discussed his relationship with the late North Korean dictator Kim Il-sung, praising him as a "different kind of communist" and "one of the great fighters for freedom in his country against the Japanese." Graham went on to note that although he had never met Kim's son and former North Korean dictatorKim Jong-il, he had "exchanged gifts with him."[43] Graham gave a globe surmounted with doves to the North Korean Friendship Museum.[41]
In March 1991, Graham said in reference to the Persian Gulf War, "As our President, President Bush, has said, it is not the people of Iraq we are at war with. It is some of the people in that regime. Pray for peace in the Middle East, a just peace."[44] Graham had earlier said that "there come times when we have to fight for peace." He went on to say that out of the war in the Gulf may "come a new peace and, as suggested by the President, a new world order."[45]
Discussion of Jews with Nixon

During the Watergate affair, there were suggestions that Graham had agreed with many of Nixon's anti-Semitic opinions, but he denied them and stressed his efforts to build bridges to the Jews. In 2002, the controversy was renewed when declassified "Richard Nixon tapes" confirmed remarks made by Graham to President Nixon three decades earlier.[46] Captured on the tapes, Graham agreed with Nixon that Jews control the American media, calling it a "stranglehold" during a 1972 conversation with Nixon.[47] He went considerably beyond that in offensive remarks characterized as anti-Semitic by Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League[46] and evangelical author Richard Land.[48]
When the tapes were made public, Graham apologized [49][50] and said, "Although I have no memory of the occasion, I deeply regret comments I apparently made in an Oval Office conversation with President Nixon ... some 30 years ago (...). They do not reflect my views and I sincerely apologize for any offense caused by the remarks."[51] According to Newsweek magazine, "[T]he shock of the revelation was magnified because of Graham's longtime support of Israel and his refusal to join in calls for conversion of the Jews."[50]
In 2009, more Nixon tapes were released, in which Graham is heard in conversation with Nixon referring to Jews and "the synagogue of Satan." A spokesman for Graham said that Graham has never been an anti-Semite and that the comparison (in accord with the context of the quotation in the Book of Revelation) was directed specifically at those claiming to be Jews, but not holding to traditional Jewish values.[52]
After Crusade in New York (1957) fundamentalists criticized Graham for his ecumenism (he was even called "Antichrist").[53]
North Carolina Amendment 1 (2012)
Billy Graham ran an ad in 14 North Carolina newspapers expressing his support for North Carolina Amendment 1 (2012), which would define marriage in the state constitution as a union of one man and one woman.[54][55]
Graham has written the following books:[56] Many have become bestsellers and been extremely successful. For instance, in the 1970s, "The Jesus Generation sold 200,000 copies in the first two weeks after publication; Angels: God's Secret Agents had sales of 1 million copies within 90 days after release; How to Be Born Again was said to have made publishing history with its first printing of 800,000 copies."[11]

  • Calling Youth to Christ (1947)
  • America's Hour of Decision (1951)
  • I Saw Your Sons at War (1953)
  • Peace with God (1953, 1984)
  • Freedom from the Seven Deadly Sins (1955)
  • The Secret of Happiness (1955, 1985)
  • Billy Graham Talks to Teenagers (1958)
  • My Answer (1960)
  • Billy Graham Answers Your Questions (1960)
  • World Aflame (1965)
  • The Challenge (1969)
  • The Jesus Generation (1971)
  • Angels: God's Secret Agents (1975, 1985)
  • How to Be Born Again (1977)
  • The Holy Spirit (1978)
  • Till Armageddon (1981)
  • Approaching Hoofbeats (1983)
  • A Biblical Standard for Evangelists (1984)
  • Unto the Hills (1986)
  • Facing Death and the Life After (1987)
  • Answers to Life's Problems (1988)
  • Hope for the Troubled Heart (1991)
  • Storm Warning (1992)
  • Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham (1997, 2007)
  • Hope for Each Day (2002)
  • The Key to Personal Peace (2003)
  • Living in God's Love: The New York Crusade (2005)
  • The Journey: How to Live by Faith in an Uncertain World (2006)
  • Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well (2011)
  • The Heaven Answer Book (2012)

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