Billy Graham

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Billy Graham

Graham in 1993
William Franklin Graham Jr.

(1918-11-07)November 7, 1918
DiedFebruary 21, 2018(2018-02-21) (aged 99)
EducationDiploma in Biblical Studies, Florida Bible Institute (Trinity Bible College)
B.A. in Anthropology, Wheaton College
SpouseRuth Graham
Children5, including Franklin and Anne
OrdainedSouthern Baptist[1]
Offices held
President, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
TitleDoctor (Honorary)

William Franklin Graham Jr. KBE (November 7, 1918 – February 21, 2018), better known as Billy Graham, was an American Evangelical Christian minister and evangelist. He was a member of the Southern Baptist Convention. Graham is most well known as the one of the most important and most famous preachers of the 20th Century.[2] He was a spiritual advisor to several U.S. presidents.[3] Graham preached in person to more people than any other American preacher in recorded history.[3] Until 2002, Graham's lifetime audience with radio and television broadcast was more than two billion people.[4] Graham met every United States President since Harry S. Truman until his death. He received many honors including the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.[5]

Biography[change | change source]

Early life[change | change source]

Graham's early life home

Graham was born on November 7, 1918, on a dairy farm near Charlotte, North Carolina. His mother and father Morrow Coffey and William Franklin Graham managed the farm.[6] They were devout Christians[7] and Graham's mother had a big influence on his faith.[6] In 1933 Graham's father forced Graham and his sister Catherine to drink beer until they vomited. This made them hate alcohol for the rest of their lives.[8] The Billy Graham Center says Graham was converted in 1934 during a revival meeting in Charlotte led by local evangelist Mordecai Ham.[9] In Graham's part of Christianity, "conversion" means having a big faith experience, not changing from one religion to a different religion.[10] However, he did not become a member of a local youth group because he was "too worldly."[8] After graduating from Sharon High School in May 1936 Graham went to Bob Jones College (now called Bob Jones University).

In his first year of college, he found both the schoolwork and rules too hard.[8] As a result, he almost had to leave school, but Bob Jones, Sr., the founder of the college, said that in doing that, he would throw his life away. He told Graham, "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."[8]

While he was at college, Graham would often take a canoe to a little island in the river. On that island he would preach to the birds, alligators, and cypress stumps. In 1937, Graham transferred to the Florida Bible Institute (now Trinity College of Florida) where the Florida College in Temple Terrace, Florida now stands. Graham later transferred to Wheaton College and in 1943, graduated from Wheaton in Illinois with a degree in anthropology. While he was at Wheaton College, Graham decided to take the Bible as the perfect Word of God. He accepted this as truth at the Forest Home Christian camp (now called Forest Home Ministries), southeast of the Big Bear area in Southern California. A memorial is there showing where Graham first made this choice.[11]

Family[change | change source]

In 1946, Graham married a girl who was in a class with him, Ruth Bell. Her parents were Presbyterian missionaries in China. Her father, L. Nelson Bell, worked as a surgeon there. When talking about Bell, Graham said "She looked at me and our eyes met and I felt that she was definitely the woman I wanted to marry." Ruth said that he wanted to please God more than any man she had ever met. They married two months after they graduated from college. After marriage, they lived in a log cabin that she had made. Ruth died on June 14, 2007, at age 87.[12] They had five children together:[13][14] Virginia (Gigi) Graham Foreman; Anne Graham Lotz; Ruth Dienert; Franklin Graham, and Ned Graham. They also had 19 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren.

Ministry[change | change source]

The Billy Graham Library

Beginning[change | change source]

Graham became a Southern Baptist minister in 1939. Then he took over and organized financing of the radio program "Songs in the Night". Afterwards, he made the baritone, George Beverly Shea director of music in his ministry. The program went well, but Graham left it in 1945. He wished to be a chaplain in the armed forces, but after trying to get in, he came down with mumps, so he had to not enlist. After some time, he recovered in Florida. Then he started Youth for Christ with evangelist Charles Templeton. He traveled all through the United States and Europe as an evangelist.[8]

Hearst intervention[change | change source]

Graham held many revival meetings in Los Angeles in 1949. These revivals are thought to be the time when Graham became a national religious figure.[15] This is because he got help from the powerful newspaper man William Randolph Hearst. Many people believe that Hearst liked Graham for his love of his country. It is also believed that he may have thought that Graham could help with his conservative, anti-communist views.[16] Hearst sent a telegram to his newspaper editors reading "Puff Graham" during Graham's late 1949 Los Angeles crusade.[8] Therefore, one could read much more about Graham now in Hearst's newspaper chain and national magazines. That meant that his crusade event could run for eight full weeks — five weeks longer than planned. Henry Luce put Graham on the cover of Time magazine in 1954.[17]

Middle years[change | change source]

Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where Graham often held revivals

Graham had missions in both London and the Madison Square Garden in 1957. The London mission lasted 12 weeks and the New York mission was about 16 weeks. He also led his first crusade in Australia in 1959.

Graham was the president of Northwestern College in Minnesota from 1948 to 1952. He began many organizations, such as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He also spoke against racial segregation during the 1960s. Graham did not want to speak to segregated auditoriums. He even once tore down ropes that had been put up to split the audience. Graham paid bail money to get Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. out of jail. That was during the 1960s American Civil Rights Movement. He asked King to join him in the pulpit at the revival meeting at New York City in 1957. During that 16-week tour, he was heard by many people, who came to hear him at Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium and the Times Square.[4] Because they became good friends, Graham was one of the few white people King let call him by his birth name "Michael".[18]

Later years[change | change source]

During the Cold War, Graham was the first evangelist to speak behind the Iron Curtain.[19] During the Apartheid times, Graham would not go to South Africa until the government let all people sit together.[20] He finally preached his first crusade there in 1973, during which he taught that apartheid was not right.

Graham went to China, where his wife Ruth was born. He also appeared in North Korea in 1992. On September 14, 2001, shortly after the September 11 attacks, Graham led prayer at the Washington National Cathedral. President George W. Bush went to this service. On June 24, 2005, he began what he said would be his last North American crusade. On the weekend of March 11 and March 12, 2006 Graham held the "Festival of Hope". It was held in New Orleans, which was recovering from Hurricane Katrina.

Graham said that he had to retire because of his failing health. He had had Parkinson's disease for about 15 years, as well as many other problems. In August 2005, though weak, he used a walker to go to at the start of his library in Charlotte, North Carolina. On August 18, 2007, Graham, aged 88, was treated for intestinal bleeding.[21]

Graham preached Christianity to nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories. He also preached to hundreds of millions more through television, videos, movie, and webcasts.[22] He went to over 41 evangelistic crusades. He began this ministry in 1947, and kept doing it until recently. He would often use a big area, such as a stadium, park, or a large street to speak at. Groups of up to 5,000 people would often sing in choir at his meetings. Graham would preach the gospel and then invite people to come forward. In 1992, one-quarter of the 155,000 in his Moscow audience came for salvation upon his request.[8]

Graham died on February 21, 2018, at his home in Montreat, North Carolina, at the age of 99, 259 days before his 100th birthday.[23]

Politics[change | change source]

In politics, Graham was a member of the Democratic Party, but changed to Republican during the presidency of his friend Richard Nixon. Though he did not support people running on politics in general, he gave his support in some cases over the years.[source?]

Pastor to Presidents[change | change source]

Billy Graham with President Richard Nixon

Graham met every United States President from Harry Truman to Donald Trump.[24][25] He became close friends with Vice-President Richard Nixon while on a golf course. Dwight D. Eisenhower asked to see Graham while on his deathbed.[26] Graham also worked with Lyndon B. Johnson, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, the Bush family,[15] and Barack Obama when he visited Rev. Graham at his home in Montreat, North Carolina where they “had a private prayer.”[27]

Graham played golf with John F. Kennedy, even though Kennedy was a Roman Catholic. Graham spent the last night of Johnson's presidency in the White House. He was also there for the first night of Nixon's.[26] Nixon appeared at one of Graham's revivals in East Tennessee in 1970. It had one of the biggest crowds ever to gather in Tennessee. However, their friendship got weaker because Graham did not approve of Nixon's post-Watergate behavior. They became better friends again. Graham said at that time, "I'm out of politics."[20]

When Graham went to the hospital in 1976, three Presidents called in one day to wish him well: former President Nixon, President Ford, and President-Elect Carter.[26] He was at the start of Reagan's presidency, and gave the speech at George H.W. Bush's presidency.[26] Bill Clinton went to one of Graham's New York[disambiguation needed] revivals in 2005. He also said that he had gone to Graham's revival as a boy in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1959.[28]

Graham spoke at many funerals over the years, but he was unable to do Reagan's on June 11, 2004, because of recent hip surgery. Graham had been Reagan's first choice. Bad health also kept Graham from doing the funeral of President Gerald R. Ford in Washington D.C., on January 2, 2007.

Foreign policy views[change | change source]

Graham spoke against communism. He was in favor of the U.S. Cold War policy, including the Vietnam War. However, in a 1999 speech, he talked about his relationship with the late North Korean dictator Kim Il-Sung. He said that he was a "different kind of communist" and "one of the great fighters for freedom in his country against the Japanese." Graham went on to say that even though he had never met Kim's son and former North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il, he had "exchanged gifts with him."[29] Graham gave a globe covered with doves to the North Korean Friendship Museum.

Controversy[change | change source]

Agreement with Richard Nixon's antisemitism[change | change source]

Graham with President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan

In 1994, the people read in the diaries of H. R. Haldeman that Graham had talked with President Nixon about "Jewish domination of the media". (H. R. Haldeman worked with Richard Nixon at the White House). Because what Haldeman had written was different from things that Graham usually said in public, most Jewish groups did not really believe it. Graham released a statement that he never spoke "publicly or privately about the Jewish people, including conversations with President Nixon, except in the most positive terms." He said, "Those are not my words." In 2002, however, "Richard Nixon tapes" showed that Graham had talked about it, in the 1970s. This was like Haldeman had written. On the tapes, Graham agreed with Nixon that Jews had control over the American media. He called it a "stranglehold" in 1972.[30] Graham said "This stranglehold has got to be broken or the country's going down the drain."[31] When the videotapes were released, Graham said he was sorry for his remarks, saying, "although I have no memory of the occasion, I deeply regret comments I apparently made ... They do not reflect my views, and I sincerely apologize for any offense caused by the remarks."[32] He also said that "If it wasn't on tape, I would not have believed it. I guess I was trying to please... I went to a meeting with Jewish leaders and I told them I would crawl to them to ask their forgiveness."[33]

Ideas about women[change | change source]

In 1970, Graham said feminism was part of a society with fewer rules and that women did not want to compete with men.[34][35] He also said that a women should be a wife, mother, and homemaker. This idea of the role of women was published in the Ladies' Home Journal. Many people sent letters of protest. The magazine added a section called "The New Feminism" after a sit-in protest at the Journal.[36][37][38][39]

Graham was never alone with any woman except his wife. This was called the Billy Graham rule.[40]

Billy's daughter Bunny said that her father did not allow her and her sisters higher education.[41]

Awards and honors[change | change source]

Recognition[change | change source]

Between 1950 and 1990, Graham appeared many times on Gallup's list of most admired people.[42] The United States Postal Service has said that he is one of the few Americans, along with the current President, who can get mail that simply says his name and country: "Billy Graham, America".[42] He received the "Congressional Gold Medal" from the United States Congress and the "Presidential Medal of Freedom"[5] from Reagan, America's highest civilian honors.[42] President Bill Clinton and former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole gave Graham the "Congressional Gold Medal" at a ceremony in Washington D.C., in 1996. The George Washington Carver Memorial Institute has honoured his work to help make better relationships between people of different races.

National day[change | change source]

In 1971, Graham's hometown of Charlotte held a "Billy Graham Day", to which President Richard Nixon came.[43] On May 30, 1999, Graham was invited to speak right before the Indianapolis 500. On May 31, 2007, the $27 million Billy Graham Library was officially started in Charlotte. Former Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton came.[44] In 1990, the band "The Swirling Eddies" gave homage to Graham with its song "Billy Graham" on the album Outdoor Elvis.[45]

Awards[change | change source]

Graham got the "Big Brother of the Year Award" for his work on behalf of children. He also got the "Templeton Foundation Prize for Progress in Religion" and the Sylvanus Thayer Award for his commitment to "Duty, Honor, and Country."[22] The "Billy Graham Children's Health Center" in Asheville is named after him. There is a special chair named after him at the Southern Baptist Samford University; the "Billy Graham Chair of Evangelism and Church Growth."[46]

References[change | change source]

  1. "Indepth: Billy Graham". CBC. Archived from the original on January 19, 2011. Retrieved December 1, 2011.
  2. Billy Graham: American Pilgrim. Oxford University Press. 26 June 2017. ISBN 978-0-19-068352-8.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Pastor to Power: Billy Graham and the Presidents". ABC news. Archived from the original on 2012-01-20. Retrieved 2009-10-25.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Horstman, Barry M. (June 27, 2002). "Billy Graham:A Man with a Mission. (Special section)". Cincinnati Post. Archived from the original on 2015-03-28. Retrieved 2009-10-25.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Billy Graham Awards". Highbeam. Archived from the original on 2015-03-28. Retrieved 2009-10-05.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Billy Graham's mother dies at Charlotte home". Wilmington Morning Star. Associated Press. 15 August 1981.
  7. Johnson, Jewell (2011). "Morrow Graham". Daily Devotions for Women: Inspiration from the Lives of Classic Christian Women. Barbour Publishing. ISBN 9781616265090.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 "God's Billy Pulpit". Time. Archived from the original on 2011-10-24. Retrieved 2009-10-25.
  9. "Graham's Mentor To Share Pulpit". The Robesonian. Associated Press. 29 May 1958.
  10. Luke Cawley. "What Is Conversion?". Intervarsity Evangelism. Retrieved February 26, 2024.
  11. "About Billy Graham: A Biography". Archived from the original on 2011-01-26. Retrieved 2008-11-14.
  12. Marshall Shelley (June 14, 2007). "Ruth Graham Dies at 87". ChristianityToday. Retrieved 2009-10-25.
  13. Roger A. Lee. "Biofiles: Billy Graham". Retrieved 2009-10-25.
  14. "Obituary".
  15. 15.0 15.1 Harold Bloom (June 14, 1999). "TIME 100: Billy Graham". Time. Archived from the original on 2009-05-04. Retrieved 2009-10-25.
  16. "In 1949, for example, William Randolph Hearst, head of one large publishing empire, and Henry Luce, chief of another, Time, Inc., were both worried about communism and the growth of liberalism in the United States." "Billy Graham, an obscure evangelist holding poorly attended tent meetings in Los Angeles. (...) Hearst and Luce interviewed the obscure preacher and decided he was worthy of their support. Billy Graham became an almost instantaneous national and, later, international figure preaching anticommunism. In late 1949, Hearst sent a telegram to all Hearst editors: "Puff Graham." The editors did — in Hearst newspapers, magazines, movies, and newsreels. Within two months Graham was preaching to crowds of 350,000." (from Ben Bagdikian, The Media Monopoly, Boston, Mass Usa: Beacon Press, 2000 6th ed., p. 39 ff)
  17. Duffy, Michael; Nancy Gibbs (2007). The preacher and the presidents: Billy Graham in the White House. Center Street. p. 413. ISBN 978-1-5999-5734-0.
  18. "Billy Graham". Archived from the original on 7 February 2008. Retrieved 2009-10-05.
  19. Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy (May 31, 2007). "Billy Graham: "A Spiritual Gift to All"". Time. Archived from the original on 2013-08-24. Retrieved 2009-10-25.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Shelley, Marshall; Harold Myra (2005). The leadership secrets of Billy Graham. Zondervan. p. 348. ISBN 978-0-3102-5578-9.
  21. The Associated Press (August 19, 2007). "Evangelist Billy Graham hospitalized". Archived from the original on 18 October 2007. Retrieved 2009-10-25.
  22. 22.0 22.1 "Media:Bios — Billy Graham". Archived from the original on 2010-03-23. Retrieved 2009-10-25.
  23. "Evangelist Billy Graham dies at age 99; reached millions". Associated Press. Retrieved February 21, 2018.
  24. Al Sharpton, host (February 21, 2012). "Politics Nation". Politics Nation. MSNBC TV. ...Billy Graham is a major evangelical leader in this country. He met with every U.S. president since Harry Truman.
  25. Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. "Resources for Teachers and Students on Billy Graham". Santa Clara University. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 26.3 "The President Preacher; In Crisis, White House Turns to Billy Graham". The Washington Post. January 18, 1991. Archived from the original on 2011-05-16. Retrieved 2009-10-25.
  27. Baker, Peter (April 25, 2010). "Obama Visits the Rev. Billy Graham". The New York Times. Retrieved April 25, 2010.
  28. "Pastor to Power: Billy Graham and the Presidents". ABC News. Retrieved 2009-10-05.
  29. "Independent Article, Preacher power: America's God squad". The Independent. July 25, 2007. Archived from the original on 17 August 2007. Retrieved 2009-10-05.
  30. "BBC, Graham Regrets Jewish Slur". BBC. 2 March 2002. Retrieved 2009-10-05.
  31. "Slate Article by David Greenberg, Assistant Professor Journalism & Media Studies at Rutgers University". Slate. 12 March 2002. Retrieved 2009-10-05.
  32. "Eric J Greenberg, United Jewish Communities". Archived from the original on 2006-10-18. Retrieved 2009-10-24.
  33. "Newsweek, Pilgrim's Progress". MSN. p. 5. Archived from the original on 22 April 2007. Retrieved 2009-10-05.
  34. Graham, Billy (December 1970). "Jesus and the Liberated Woman". Ladies' Home Journal. 87: 40–4.
  35. "Billy Graham Enters Women's Lib Controversy". The Kokomo Tribune. November 28, 1970. p. 7.
  36. "Feminist Chronicles - 1970". Feminist Majority Foundation. Retrieved May 19, 2015.
  37. Dow, Bonnie J. (2014). Watching Women's Liberation, 1970: Feminism's Pivotal Year on the Network News. p. 112. ISBN 978-0-252-09648-8.
  38. Alston, ShaKea (May 24, 2015). "1970: Feminist Sit in at Ladies Home Journal".
  39. Marshall, Ellen Ott (2008). "A Matter of Pride, A Feminist Response". In Long, Michael G. (ed.). The Legacy of Billy Graham: Critical Reflections on America's Greatest Evangelist. pp. 79–91. ISBN 978-0-664-23656-4.
  40. Taylor, Justin (March 20, 2017). "Where Did the 'Billy Graham Rule' Come From?". The Gospel Coalition. Retrieved April 2, 2017.
  41. Martin, William (February 21, 2018). "Divorce, drugs, drinking: Billy Graham's children and their absent father". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 23, 2018.
  42. 42.0 42.1 42.2 "The Billy pulpit: Graham's career in the mainline". Christian Century. November 15, 2003. Retrieved 2009-10-25.[dead link]
  43. "When worlds collide: politics, religion, and media at the 1970 East Tennessee Billy Graham Crusade. (appearance by President Richard M. Nixon)". Journal of Church and State. March 22, 1997. Archived from the original on 2011-05-17. Retrieved 2007-08-18.
  44. "Billy Graham Library beginning". CBS News. 2007-05-31. Retrieved 2009-10-05.
  45. "Billy and Ruth Graham awarded Congressional Gold Medal for service". Knight-Ridder News Service. May 2, 1996. Archived from the original on 2007-10-04. Retrieved 2007-08-18.
  46. William Nunnelley. "Billy Graham Biography by Lewis Drummond Explores Evangelist's Life, Impact and Legacy". Samford News. Samford University, Office of Communication. Archived from the original on 2012-05-14. Retrieved 2012-02-27.

Other websites[change | change source]