William Franklin Graham Jr. (born November 7, 1918), better known as Billy Graham, is an American evangelist and an Evangelical Christian. He has been a spiritual adviser to multiple U.S. presidents and was number eight on Gallup’s list of admired people for the 20th century. He is a Southern Baptist. Graham has preached in person to more people around the world than any Protestant in history. According to his staff, as of 1993 more than 2.5 million people had “stepped forward at his crusades to accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior”. As of 2008, Graham’s lifetime audience, including radio and television broadcasts, topped 2.2 billion.
According to the Billy Graham Center, Billy Graham was converted in 1934 during a series of revival meetings in Charlotte which were led by evangelist Mordecai Ham. However, he was turned down for membership in a local youth group because he was “too worldly.” He was persuaded to go see Ham at the urging of one of the employees on the Graham farm.
Bill attended Bob Jones College (now Bob Jones University), then located in Cleveland, Tennessee, for one semester but found it too legalistic in both coursework and rules. 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.” In 1937, Graham transferred to the Florida Bible Institute (now Trinity College of Florida) on the site of today’s Florida College in Temple Terrace, Florida. In his autobiography he writes that he “received [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 in Temple Terrace. A Reverend Billy Graham Memorial Park is today located 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. It was during his time at Wheaton that Graham decided to take the Bible as the infallible word of God. Henrietta Mears of the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood was instrumental in helping Graham wrestle with the issue, which was settled at Forest Home Christian camp (now called Forest Home Ministries) southeast of the Big Bear area in Southern California. A memorial there marks the site of Graham’s decision. Family On August 13, 1943, Graham married Wheaton classmate Ruth Bell (1920–2007), whose parents were Presbyterian missionaries in China, where her father, L. Nelson Bell, was a general surgeon. He 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.” 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. Ruth died on June 14, 2007, at age 87. They have five children together: Virginia (Gigi) Graham Foreman (b. 1945); Anne Graham Lotz (b. 1948; runs AnGeL ministries); Ruth Dienert (b. 1950); Franklin Graham (b. 1952; administers an international relief organization called Samaritan’s Purse and will be his father’s successor at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association); and Ned Graham (b.1958; a pastor who runs East Gates International, which distributes Christian literature in China). Graham has 19 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren. Grandson Tullian Tchividjian is senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Ministry: Beginning He transferred in January 1937 from Bob Jones College to Florida Bible Institute (now Florida College) in Temple Terrace, Florida, from which he graduated in 1940 with a BTh (Bachelor of Theology degree). Florida Bible Institute later relocated and became Trinity College (Florida) in Trinity, Florida. Graham attended Wheaton College from 1940 to 1943, when he graduated with a BA in anthropology. While attending college, he 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 baritone George Beverly Shea as his director of radio ministry. While the radio ministry continued for many years, Graham decided to move on in early 1945. He served as president of Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1947, and at age 30 was, and continues to hold the distinction of, the youngest person to serve as a sitting college president. Initially, Graham intended to become a chaplain in the armed forces, but shortly after applying for a commission he came down with a severe case of mumps that ended that plan. After a period of recuperation in Florida, Graham went on to co-found Youth for Christ with evangelist Charles Templeton. He traveled throughout the United States and Europe as an evangelist. Unlike many evangelists then and now, Graham had little formal theological training; he turned down offers to attend Princeton Theological Seminary.
Hearst intervention Graham scheduled a series of revival meetings in Los Angeles in 1949, for which he erected circus tents in a parking lot. The missions went on for eight weeks after being originally scheduled for three weeks. The Los Angeles revival is considered to be the time when Graham became a national religious figure. Graham’s rise to national prominence is due in part to the assistance he received from news mogul William Randolph Hearst, whose interest in Graham was that he respected Graham for being his own person and following what he believed, though the two never met. Most observers believe that Hearst appreciated Graham’s patriotism and appeals to youth, and thought that Graham would be helpful in promoting Hearst’s conservative anti-communist views. Hearst sent a telegram to his newspaper editors reading “Puff Graham” during Billy Graham’s late 1949 Los Angeles crusade. The result of the increased media exposure from Hearst’s newspaper chain and national magazines caused the crusade event to run for eight weeks—five weeks longer than planned. Henry Luce put him on the cover of TIME in 1954. At the Los Angeles revival, a fellow evangelist accused Graham of setting religion back 100 years. Graham replied, “I did indeed want to set religion back, not just 100 years but 1,900 years, to the Book of Acts, when first century followers of Christ were accused of turning the Roman Empire upside down.”
Crusades: Billy Graham has conducted more than 41 evangelistic crusades since 1948. He began this form of ministry in 1947 and continued until recently. He would rent a large venue, such as a stadium, park, or street. He arranged a group of up to 5,000 people to sing in a choir and then preached the gospel and invited people to come forward. These people, called inquirers, were then given the opportunity to speak one-on-one with a counselor who clarified any questions the inquirer may have had and would pray with that person. The inquirers were often given resources, such as a copy of the Gospel of John or a Bible study booklet. In Moscow in 1992, one-quarter of the 155,000 people in his audience came forward upon his request. 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 due to his pre-arranged commitments. 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. In 1959, he also led his first crusade, which was in Australia. Graham served as the president of Northwestern College, in Minnesota, from 1948 to 1952. He founded the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in 1950, headquartered 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 that are regularly broadcast in prime time in almost every market in the U.S. and Canada * A newspaper column, My Answer, carried by newspapers across the United States * Decision magazine, the official publication of the Association * Founded Christianity Today in 1956 with Carl F.H. Henry as its first editor * Passageway.org, the teen website of the BGEA * World Wide Pictures, which has produced and distributed more than 130 productions Graham opposed segregation during the 1960s and refused to speak to segregated auditoriums, once dramatically tearing down the ropes that organizers had erected to separate the audience. Graham said, “There is no scriptural basis for segregation…. 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.” Graham paid bail money to secure the release of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., from jail during the 1960s civil rights struggle; he invited King to join him in the pulpit at his 16-week revival in New York City in 1957. During that 16-week stint, Graham was heard by 2.3 million listeners, who gathered to hear him at Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium, and Times Square. King and Graham became friends, with Graham becoming one of the few whites allowed to call King by his birth name, “Mike.”
Later years Graham with son Franklin at Cleveland Stadium, June 1994 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. During the Apartheid era, Graham consistently refused to visit South Africa until its government finally allowed attending audiences to sit desegregated. His first crusade there was in 1973, during which he openly denounced apartheid. In 1984, he led a series of summer meetings in the United Kingdom, called Mission England, using outdoor football grounds as venues. At one revival in Seoul, South Korea, Graham attracted one million people to a single service. 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. 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 led a prayer and remembrance 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. On June 24, 2005, Billy Graham began what he has said would be his last North American crusade, at Flushing Meadows–Corona Park in New York City. But on the weekend of March 11–March 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. Graham said that his planned retirement was because of his failing health. He has suffered from Parkinson’s disease for about 15 years, has had fluid on his brain, pneumonia, broken hips, and prostate cancer. In August 2005, a frail Graham appeared at the groundbreaking for his library in Charlotte, North Carolina. Then 86, Reverend Graham used a walker to assist with mobility 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. Until a June 13, 2007 press release saying that he and his wife would be buried alongside each other at the Billy Graham Library in his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, there had been controversy over where the burial place would be. 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. 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. At the time of Ruth Graham’s death, it was announced that they would be buried at the library site. On August 18, 2007, Graham, 88, was in fair condition in Mission Health & Hospitals in Asheville, North Carolina, after undergoing treatment for intestinal bleeding, but his condition was not life-threatening. Billy Graham has preached Christianity to live audiences of nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories through various meetings, including Mission World and Global Mission. Graham has also reached hundreds of millions more through television, video, film, and webcasts.
Politics: Politically, Graham is and has been a registered member of the Democratic Party. He leaned Republican during the presidency of his friend Richard Nixon. He has not completely allied himself with the religious right, saying that Jesus did not have a political party. He does not openly endorse political candidates, but he has given his support to some over the years. He refused to join Jerry Falwell’s Moral 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.” 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.'”.