Billy Graham

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Billy Graham
Billy Graham bw photo, April 11, 1966.jpg
Graham in 1966
Born William Franklin Graham, Jr.
(1918-11-07)November 7, 1918
Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S.
Died February 21, 2018(2018-02-21) (aged 99)
Montreat, North Carolina, U.S.
Nationality American
Education Diploma in Biblical Studies, Florida Bible Institute (Trinity Bible College), 1940
B.A. in Anthropology, Wheaton College, 1943
Alma mater Wheaton College
Occupation Evangelist
Years active 1947–2014
Known for Christian minister, author of books about Salvation and God's love
Notable work How to be Born Again, Angels
Net worth $25 million[1]
Television Billy Graham Crusades (1947–2005)
Title Doctor (honorary)
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Ruth Graham
(m. 1943–2007; her death)
Children Virginia, Anne, William Franklin III, and Nelson
Billy Graham Signature.svg

William Franklin "Billy" Graham, Jr., KBE (November 7, 1918 - February 21, 1918) was an American evangelical Christian evangelist, ordained as a Southern Baptist minister, who rose to celebrity status in 1949 reaching a core constituency of middle-class, moderately conservative Protestants.[3] He held large indoor and outdoor rallies; sermons were broadcast on radio and television, some still being re-broadcast today.[4] In his six decades of television, Graham was principally known for hosting the annual Billy Graham Crusades, which he began in 1947, until he concluded in 2005. He also hosted the popular radio show Hour of Decision from 1950 to 1954 (it is now hosted by long-time crusade partner Cliff Barrows).

Graham was a spiritual adviser to several American presidents; he was particularly close to Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson (who was considered to be one of Graham's closest friends)[5] and Richard Nixon.[6] He insisted on integration for his revivals and crusades in 1953 and invited Martin Luther King, Jr. to preach jointly at a revival in New York City in 1957. Graham bailed King out of jail in the 1960s when King was arrested in demonstrations. He was also lifelong friends with another televangelist, Robert H. Schuller, whom Graham talked into doing his own television ministry in Garden Grove, California, from 1970 until Schuller's retirement in 2010 (who was the longest-serving minister of the telecast), from the Neutra Sanctuary, after Schuller visited him in 1969, at an Anaheim Convention Center for one of his crusades.[7]

Graham operated a variety of media and publishing outlets.[8] 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. Because of his crusades, Graham has preached the gospel to more people in person than anyone in the history of Christianity.[8]

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.[9] Grant Wacker reports:

By the middle 1960s, he had become the "Great Legitimator". ...His presence conferred sanctity on events, authority on presidents, acceptability on wars, desirability on decency, [and] shame on indecency....By the middle 1970s, many deemed him "America's pastor".[3]

Early life

William Franklin Graham, Jr. was born on November 7, 1918. He was the eldest of four children born to Morrow (née Coffey) (1892–1981) and William Franklin Graham, Sr. (1888–1962). Graham grew up on a family dairy farm, near Charlotte, North Carolina, with his two younger sisters and younger brother. In 1927, when he was eight years old, the family moved about 75 yards (69 m) from their white frame house to a newly built red brick home.[10] He was raised in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church by his parents and is of Scottish descent.[11][12] Before this, in 1924, when Graham was only five, he focused on the outdoors, but rarely did he walk, as he was running and zooming, constantly. At the same time, he started as a student at the Sharon Grammar School.[13] Starting to read books from an early age, Graham loved to read novels for boys, especially Tarzan. Like Tarzan, he would hang on the trees, and gave the popular Tarzan yell, scaring both horses and drivers. According to his father, that yelling had led him to become a minister.[14] In 1933, when he was fourteen, as Prohibition in the United States ended, Graham's mother forced him and his sister Katherine to drink beer until they got sick, which created such an aversion that both avoided alcohol and drugs for the rest of their lives.[15]

After Graham was turned down for membership in a local youth group because he was "too worldly",[15] Albert McMakin, who worked on the Graham farm, persuaded him to go and see the evangelist Mordecai Ham.[8] According to his autobiography, Graham was converted in 1934, at age 16 during a series of revival meetings in Charlotte led by Ham.[16][17]

After graduating from Sharon High School in May 1936, Graham attended Bob Jones College, then located in Cleveland, Tennessee. After one semester, he found it too legalistic in both coursework and rules.[15] 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."[15]

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.[18]

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.[19] 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 Presbyterian missionaries in China. Her father, L. Nelson Bell, was a general surgeon.[20] Ruth Graham died on June 14, 2007, at the age of 87. The Grahams were married 64 years.

Graham and his wife had five children together: Virginia Leftwich (Gigi) Graham (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;[21] and Nelson Edman Graham (born 1958; a pastor who runs East Gates Ministries International,[22] which distributes Christian literature in China).

Graham has 19 grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren. Notably, his grandson Tullian Tchividjian, son of Gigi, was the senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida until he was defrocked in June 2015 after admitting to an extra-marital affair.[23][24] He later filed for divorced from his wife, Kim.[25]

Ministry career

While attending college, Graham became pastor of the United Gospel Tabernacle and also had other preaching engagements.

Graham served briefly as pastor of the First Baptist 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 due to 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 congregation. Launching the new radio program on January 2, 1944, still called Songs in the Night, Graham recruited the bass-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. In 1947, at age 30, he was hired as president of Northwestern Bible College in Minneapolis—at the time, the youngest person to serve as a sitting president of any U.S. college or university. Graham served as the president from 1948 to 1952.[26]

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, he was hired as the first full-time evangelist of the new Youth for Christ (YFC), 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, he 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 he declined as he was already serving as the president of Northwestern Bible College.[15][26]

Graham scheduled a series of revival meetings in Los Angeles in 1949, for which he erected circus tents in a parking lot.[8] He attracted national media coverage, especially in the conservative Hearst chain, although Hearst and Graham never met.[27] The crusade event ran for eight weeks—five weeks longer than planned. Graham became a national figure with heavy coverage from the wire services and national magazines.[28]


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 September 13–21, 1947, in the Civic Auditorium in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was attended by 6,000 people. Graham was 29 years old. He called them crusades, after the medieval Christian forces who conquered Jerusalem. He would rent a large venue, such as a stadium, park, or street. As the sessions became 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.[15] During his crusades, he has frequently used the altar call song, "Just As I Am".[29]

Graham was offered a five-year, $1 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.[20] 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.

Student ministry

Graham spoke at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship's Urbana Student Missions Conference at least nine times: in 1948, 1957, 1961, 1964, 1976, 1979, 1981, 1984, and 1987.[30]

At each Urbana conference he challenged the thousands of attendees to make a commitment to follow Jesus Christ for the rest of their lives, often quoting a 6-word phrase written in the Bible of an heir to the Borden milk fortune, William Borden, who died in Egypt on his way to the mission field, "no reserves, no retreat, no regrets".[31]

Graham also held evangelistic meetings on a number of college campuses: at the University of Minnesota during InterVarsity's "Year of Evangelism" in 1950–51, a 4-day mission at Yale University in 1957, and a week-long series of meetings at the University of North Carolina's Carmichael Auditorium in September 1982.[32]

In 1955 he was invited by students to lead the mission to Cambridge University, arranged by the CICCU, with the London pastor-theologian John Stott as his chief assistant. This invitation was greeted with much disapproval in the correspondence columns of The Times.[33]

Evangelistic association

In 1950, Graham founded the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) with its headquarters in Minneapolis. The association relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina in 1999. 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 youth discipleship program created by BGEA
  • World Wide Pictures, which has produced and distributed more than 130 films

In April 2013, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association started "My Hope With Billy Graham", the largest outreach in its history, encouraging church members to spread the gospel in small group meetings after showing a video message by Graham. "The idea is for Christians to follow the example of the disciple Matthew in the New Testament and spread the gospel in their own homes."[34] The video, called "The Cross", is the main program in the My Hope America series and was also broadcast the week of Graham's 95th birthday. In an email interview with WND, Graham wrote that "we are close to the end of the age".[35]

Civil rights movement

During a 1953 rally in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Graham 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."[36] He 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."[37]

In 1957, Graham's stance towards integration became more publicly shown when he allowed African American ministers Thomas Kilgore and Gardner Taylor to serve as members of his New York Crusade's executive committee[38] and invited the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., whom he first met during the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955,[38] 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.[8] Graham recalled in his autobiography that during this time, he and King developed a close friendship and that he was eventually one of the few people who referred to King as "Mike," a nickname which King asked only his closest friends to call him.[39] Following King's assassination in 1968, Graham mourned that America had lost "a social leader and a prophet".[38] In private, Graham would also advise King and other members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference(SCLC).[40]

Despite their friendship, tensions between Graham and King emerged in 1958 when the sponsoring committee of a crusade which took place in San Antonio, Texas on July 25 arranged for Graham to be introduced by that state's segregationist governor, Price Daniel.[38] On July 23, King sent a letter to Graham and informed him that allowing Daniel to speak at a crusade which occurred the night before the state's Democratic Primary "can well be interpreted as your endorsement of racial segregation and discrimination."[41] Graham's advisor, Grady Wilson, replied to King that "even though we do not see eye to eye with him on every issue, we still love him in Christ."[42] Though Graham's appearance with Daniel dashed King's hopes of holding joint crusades with Graham in the Deep South,[40] the two still remained friends and King told a Canadian television audience the following year that Graham had taken a "very strong stance against segregation."[40] Graham and King would also come to differ on the Vietnam War.[38] After King's "Beyond Vietnam" speech denouncing U.S. intervention in Vietnam, Graham castigated him and others for their criticism of American foreign policy.[38]

By the middle of 1960, King and Graham traveled together to the Tenth Baptist World Congress of the Baptist World Alliance.[38] In 1963, Graham posted bail for King to be released from jail during the civil rights protests in Birmingham.[43] Graham held integrated crusades in Birmingham, Alabama, on Easter 1964 in the aftermath of the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, and toured Alabama again in the wake of the violence that accompanied the first Selma to Montgomery march in 1965.[38]

Graham's faith prompted his maturing view of race and segregation; he told a 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."[44]

Lausanne Movement

The friendship between Graham and John Stott led to a further partnership in the Lausanne Movement, of which Graham was founder. It built on Graham's 1966 World Congress on Evangelism in Berlin.[clarification needed] In collaboration with Christianity Today, Graham convened what TIME magazine described as "a formidable forum, possibly the widest–ranging meeting of Christians ever held"[45] with 2,700 participants from 150 nations gathering for the International Congress on World Evangelization. This took place in Lausanne, Switzerland (July 16–25, 1974), and the movement which ensued took its name from the host city. Its purpose was to strengthen the global church for world evangelization, and to engage ideological and sociological trends which bore on this.[46] Graham invited Stott to be chief architect of the Lausanne Covenant, which issued from the Congress and which, according to Graham, "helped challenge and unite evangelical Christians in the great task of world evangelization."[47] The movement remains a significant fruit of Graham's legacy, with a presence in nearly every nation.[48]

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.[49] He appeared as a guest on a 1969 Woody Allen television special, where he joined the comedian in a witty exchange on theological matters.[50] 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.[51] 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.[52] Graham also corresponded with imprisoned South African leader Nelson Mandela during the latter's 27-year sentence.[53]

Billy Graham at the Feyenoord-stadion in Rotterdam, The Netherlands (June 30, 1955)

In 1984, he led a series of meetings in the United Kingdom summer, called Mission England, using outdoor football (soccer) 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.[20] 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.[44]

On October 15, 1989 Graham received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Graham was the only minister, functioning in that capacity, to receive one.[54]

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.[44] 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.

Graham prepared one last sermon, My Hope America, released on DVD and played around America and possibly worldwide between November 7–10, 2013, November 7 being his 95th birthday, hoping to cause a revival.[55] It was aired on several networks including FOX News.[56]


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, he used a walker during the ceremony. On July 9, 2006, he 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.[57]

There had been controversy over Graham's 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.[58] 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.[58] At the time of Ruth Graham's death, it was announced that they would be buried at the library site.

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. He has also reached hundreds of millions more through television, video, film, and webcasts.[59]

Illness and death

Graham had Parkinson's disease since 1992.[60]

Graham died on February 21, 2018, at his home in Montreat, North Carolina, at the age of 99. No cause of death was officially disclosed. On February 28 and March 1, 2018, Billy Graham became the fourth private citizen in United States history to lie in honor in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.


Graham was a registered member of the Democratic Party.[61] In 1960 he was opposed to the candidacy of John F. Kennedy because he was Catholic, and worked "behind the scenes" to encourage influential Protestant ministers to speak out against him.[62] Graham met with a conference of Protestant ministers in Montreux, Switzerland during the 1960 campaign, to discuss their mobilizing congregations to defeat Kennedy.[63] According to the PBS Frontline program, God in America (2010), Episode 5, Graham also organized a meeting in September 1960 of hundreds of Protestant ministers in Washington, D.C. to this purpose; Norman Vincent Peale led the meeting.[62] This was shortly before Kennedy's speech on the separation of church and state in Houston, Texas, which was considered to be successful in meeting concerns of many voters.

Graham leaned toward the Republicans during the presidency of Richard Nixon whom he had met and befriended as vice president under Dwight Eisenhower.[64] He did not completely ally himself with the later religious right, saying that Jesus did not have a political party.[15] He has given his support to various political candidates over the years.[64]

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."[44]

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.'"[65]

In 2012, Graham publicly endorsed the Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.[66] Shortly after, references to Mormonism as a religious cult ("A cult is any group which teaches doctrines or beliefs that deviate from the biblical message of the Christian faith.") were removed from Graham's website.[67][68] Observers have questioned whether the support of Republican and religious right politics on issues such as same-sex marriage coming from Graham—who no longer spoke in public or to reporters—in fact reflected the views of his son, Franklin, head of the BGEA. Franklin denied this, and said that he would continue to act as his father's spokesperson rather than allowing press conferences.[69]

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. 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.[64] Truman disliked him and did not speak with him for years after that meeting.[15]

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.[70]


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.[15] At that time Graham met and would become close friends with Vice President Richard Nixon.[64] After a special law was passed in 1952, Graham conducted the first religious service on the steps of the Capitol building.[15] The evangelist actively supported Quaker Nixon for the presidency in 1960, even to the extent of convening an August strategy session of evangelical leaders in Montreaux, Switzerland, to plan how best to oppose Nixon's Roman Catholic opponent, Senator John F. Kennedy.[71] Eisenhower asked for Graham while on his deathbed.[72]

Since the Eisenhower years, the preacher enjoyed a friendship with Nixon.[73] He supported him over John F. Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election.[15] Though a registered Democrat, Graham also maintained firm support towards aggression against the foreign threat of Communism and strongly sympathized with Nixon's views regarding American foreign policy.[73] Thus, he was more sympathetic to Republican administrations.[64][74]

On December 16, 1963, US President Lyndon Johnson, who was impressed by the way Graham had praised the work of his great-grandfather Rev. George Washington Baines, invited Graham to the White House to give him spiritual counseling.[5] After this visit, Johnson frequently would call on Graham for more spiritual counseling as well as companionship.[75] As Graham recalled to his biographer Frady, "I almost used the White House as a hotel when Johnson was President. He was always trying to keep me there. He just never wanted me to leave."[75]

In striking contrast with his more limited access with Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy, Graham would not only visit the White House private quarters but would also at times kneel at Johnson's bedside and then pray with him whenever the President requested him to do so.[75] Graham once recalled "I have never had many people do that."[75] In addition to his White House visits, Graham would visit Johnson at Camp David and occasionally met with the President when he retreated to his private ranch in Stonewall, Texas.[75] Johnson would also become the first sitting President to attend one of Graham's crusades, which took place in Houston, Texas in 1965.[75]

During the 1964 US Presidential election, supporters of Republican nominee Barry Goldwater sent an estimate 2 million telegrams to Graham's hometown of Montreat, North Carolina and sought the preacher's endorsement.[76] Supportive of Johnson's domestic policies,[77] and hoping to preserve his friendship with the President,[77] Graham resisted pressure to endorse Goldwater and stayed neutral in the election.[77] Following Johnson's election victory, Graham's role as the main White House pastor was solidified.[77] At one point, Johnson even considered making Graham a member of his cabinet and grooming him to be his successor,[77] though Graham insisted he had no political ambitions and wished to remain a preacher.[77] Graham's biographer David Aikman acknowledged that the preacher was closer to Johnson than any other President he had ever known.[5]

He spent the last night of Johnson's presidency in the White House, and he stayed for the first night of Nixon's.[72] After Nixon's victorious 1968 presidential campaign, Graham became an adviser, regularly visiting the White House and leading the president's private worship services.[64] In a meeting they had with Golda Meir, Nixon offered Graham the ambassadorship to Israel, but he refused.[15]

Billy Graham meeting with President Barack Obama in Montreat, April 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.[64] Their friendship became strained in 1973 when Graham rebuked Nixon for his post-Watergate behavior and the profanity heard on the Watergate tapes;[78] they eventually reconciled after Nixon's resignation.[64]

Graham was criticized by some for being too attracted to the seat of political power. 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,[15] and the death and funeral of Richard Nixon in 1994. He was unable to attend the state funeral of Ronald Reagan on June 11, 2004, as he was recovering from hip replacement surgery.[79] This was mentioned by George Bush in his eulogy.

On April 25, 2010, President Barack Obama visited Graham at his home in Montreat, North Carolina where they "had a private prayer."[80]

Foreign policy views

Graham was outspoken against communism and supported the American Cold War policy, including the Vietnam War. In a 1999 speech, Graham discussed his relationship with the late North Korean leader 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 leader Kim Jong-il, he had "exchanged gifts with him."[81] Graham gave a globe surmounted with doves to the North Korean Friendship Museum.[78]

In 1982, Graham preached in the Soviet Union and attended a wreath-laying ceremony to honor the war dead of World War II, when the Soviets were American allies in the fight against Nazism. He voiced fear of a second holocaust, not against Jews, but "a nuclear holocaust" and advised that "our greatest contribution to world peace is to live with Christ every day."[82]

In March 1991, Graham said in reference to the Persian Gulf War, "As … 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."[83] 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."[84]


Discussion of Jews with President Nixon

During the Watergate affair, there were suggestions that Graham had agreed with many of President Richard Nixon's antisemitic opinions, but he denied them and stressed his efforts to build bridges to the Jewish community. In 2002, the controversy was renewed when the New York Times reported on declassified "Richard Nixon tapes" which confirmed that remarks made by Graham to Nixon three decades earlier were, in part, critical of the New York Times.[85] Captured on the tapes, Graham agreed with Nixon that Jews control the American media, calling it a "stranglehold" during a 1972 conversation with Nixon.[86] He made further remarks which were characterized as antisemitic by Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League[85] and evangelical author Richard Land.[87]

When the tapes were made public, Graham apologized[88][89] 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."[90] 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."[89]

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 antisemite and that the comparison (in accord with the context of the quotation in the Book of Revelation[91]) was directed specifically at those claiming to be Jews, but not holding to traditional Jewish values.[92]

Vietnam War

During April 1989, a secret, thirteen page letter written on April 15, 1969 by White House Chaplain Billy Graham to U.S. President Nixon was released to the public by National Archives and Records Administration in which Graham had encouraged Nixon to utilize a military campaign to bomb dikes across North Vietnam should the Paris Peace Talks fail to reach a negotiated settlement of the U.S. war in Southeast Asia. Graham developed his dike bombing strategy during an earlier business meeting in Bangkok with his evangelists assigned to Southern Vietnam.[93] Graham would later advocate to U.S. Department of Defense Commander-in-Chief Nixon that this proposed escalation of the war in Southeast Asia as plan that "could overnight destroy the economy of North Vietnam" by employing "tens of thousands of North Vietnamese defectors to bomb and invade the North."[94]

Estimates from the Nixon Administration concluded that such a military aerial bombing campaign against dikes in North Vietnam would have killed an estimated one million North Vietnamese.[93]


After a 1957 crusade in New York, some more fundamentalist Christians criticized Graham for his ecumenism, even calling him "Antichrist".[95]

Graham has expressed inclusivist views, suggesting that people without explicit faith in Jesus can be saved. In a 1997 interview with Robert Schuller, Graham said

I think that everybody that loves or knows Christ, whether they are conscious of it or not, they are members of the body of Christ... [God] is calling people out of the world for his name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they have been called by God. They may not know the name of Jesus but they know in their hearts that they need something they do not have, and they turn to the only light they have, and I think that they are saved and they are going to be with us in heaven.[96]

Iain Murray, writing from a conservative Protestant standpoint, argues that "Graham's concessions are sad words from one who once spoke on the basis of biblical certainties."[97]

Views on women

In 1970, Graham stated that feminism was "an echo of our overall philosophy of permissiveness", and that women did not want to be "competitive juggernauts pitted against male chauvinists." He further stated that the role of wife, mother, and homemaker was the destiny of "real womanhood" according to the Judeo-Christian ethic.[98] He was criticized by feminists as being part of a backlash for these statements.[99]

Opinion on Above (Not Fact) This is a placeholder until I can create a proper Opinion Level

This belief in Jewish conspiracies and domination of the media was similar to those of Graham's former mentors: William Bell Riley chose Graham to succeed him as the second president of Northwestern Bible and Missionary Training School and evangelist Mordecai Ham led the meetings where Graham first believed in Christ. Both held strongly antisemitic views.[100]


Graham has written the following books;[101] many have become bestsellers. In the 1970s, for instance, "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."[20]

  • 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)
  • Evangelist to the World (1979)
  • 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)
  • The Reason for My Hope: Salvation (2013)[102]
  • Where I Am: Heaven, Eternity, and Our Life Beyond the Now (2015)[103]

Awards and honors

Graham was frequently honored by various surveys, including "Greatest Living American" and consistently ranked among the most admired persons in the United States and the world.[20] He has appeared most frequently on Gallup's list of most admired people.[104] Since 1955, Graham was recognized by Gallup a record 55 times (49 times consecutively)—more than any other individual in history.

In 1967, he was the first Protestant to receive an honorary degree from Belmont Abbey College, a Roman Catholic school.[105]

Graham received the Big Brother of the Year Award for his work on behalf of children. He has been cited by the George Washington Carver Memorial Institute for his contributions to race relations. He has received the Templeton Foundation Prize for Progress in Religion and the Sylvanus Thayer Award for his commitment to "Duty, Honor, Country". The "Billy Graham Children's Health Center" in Asheville is named after and funded by Graham.[106]

For hosting many Christian musical artists, Graham was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1999 by the Gospel Music Association.[107] Singer Michael W. Smith is active in Billy Graham Crusades as well as Samaritan's Purse.[108]

In 2000, former First Lady Nancy Reagan presented the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award to Graham. Graham has been a friend of the Reagans for years.[109]

A professorial chair is named after him at the Alabama Baptist-affiliated Samford University, the Billy Graham Professor of Evangelism and Church Growth.[85] His alma mater Wheaton College has an archive of his papers at the Billy Graham Center.[8] The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry. Graham has received 20 honorary degrees and refused at least that many more.[20] In San Francisco, California, the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium is sometimes erroneously called the "Billy Graham Civic Auditorium" and falsely considered to be named in his honor, but it is actually named after the rock and roll promoter Bill Graham.[110]

On May 31, 2007, the $27 million Billy Graham Library was officially dedicated in Charlotte. Former presidents Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton appeared to celebrate with Graham.[111] A highway in Charlotte bears Graham's name,[58] as does I-240 near Graham's home in Asheville.

The movie Billy: The Early Years premiered in theaters officially on October 10, 2008, less than one month before Graham's 90th birthday.[112] Graham did not comment on the film, but his son, Franklin released a critical statement on August 18, 2008, noting that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association "has not collaborated with nor does it endorse the movie."[113] Graham's eldest daughter Gigi, however, has praised the movie and has also been hired as a consultant to help promote the film.[114]

After his death, there were many accolades from American political and media figures, including President Trump.

Other honors

See also


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  9. [1] list of admired people for the 20th century
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  112. The Christian Post, Billy Graham Movie Prepares for Oct 10 Release, June 29, 2008.
  113. BGEA Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, A response from Franklin Graham, August 18, 2008
  114. The Christian Post, Franklin Graham Among 'Billy' Movie Critics, August 26, 2008
  115. "Northwestern Celebrates Billy Graham Community Life Commons Grand Opening". University of Northwestern – St. Paul website ( Retrieved January 2, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Aikman, David (2007). Billy Graham: His Life and Influence. Nashville: Thomas Nelson. ASIN B008JM5FE2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> short biography
  • Himes, A. (2011). Sword of the Lord: the roots of fundamentalism in an American family Seattle: Chiara Press.
  • King, Randall E. (1997). "When worlds collide: Politics, religion, and media at the 1970 East Tennessee Billy Graham crusade". Journal of Church & State. 39#2 (2): 273–95. doi:10.1093/jcs/39.2.273.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Long, Michael G. ed. (2008). The Legacy of Billy Graham: Critical Reflections on America's Greatest Evangelist. ASIN B002LE87N0.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> scholarly essays
  • Martin, William (2007). A Prophet with Honor: The Billy Graham Story. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. ISBN 0-310-24198-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> scholarly biography, updated from 1991 edition published by William Morrow.
  • Martin, William (2013). Prophet with Honor: The Billy Graham Story. Grand Rapids: Zonderkidz. ASIN B004HOV0CW.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Middle-school version.
  • Miller, Steven P. (2009). Billy Graham and the Rise of the Republican South. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 978-0-8122-4151-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Pollock, John (1979). Billy Graham: Evangelist to the World. ISBN 0060666919.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Sherwood, Timothy H. (2013). The Rhetorical Leadership of Fulton J. Sheen, Norman Vincent Peale, and Billy Graham in the Age of Extremes. Lexington Books. pp. 1–158. ASIN B00E1CYKCC.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Strober, Deborah Hart Strober and Gerald S. Strober (2006). Billy Graham: A Narrative and Oral Biography. Jossey-Bass. ISBN 978-0-78-79-8401-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Wacker, Grant (2009). "Billy Graham's America". Church History. 78#3 (3): 489–511. doi:10.1017/S0009640709990400.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> scholarly overview
  • Wacker, Grant (2014). America's Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-05218-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

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