It is said that Graham has preached in person to more people around the world than any other preacher 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.
He was born November 7, 1918 to William Franklin Graham I (1888–1962) and Morrow Coffey (1892–1981), on a dairy farm near Charlotte, North Carolina. Graham was raised in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church by his parents . In 1933, when Prohibition in the United States ended, Graham's father forced Graham and his sister Katherine to drink beer until they vomited, which created an aversion, in both of them, to alcohol and drugs.According to the Billy Graham Center, Graham was converted in 1934 at age 16 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, Albert McMakin, on the Graham farm.
After graduating from Sharon High School in May 1936, Graham 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. 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 accept 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.
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 the age of 87.
They had five children together: Virginia Leftwich (Gigi) Graham Tchividjian (b. 1945); Anne Graham Lotz (b. 1948; runs AnGeL ministries); Ruth Graham (b. 1950; founder and president of Ruth Graham & Friends); 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 Nelson "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.
As a guard against even the appearance of wrongdoing Graham had a policy that he would never be alone with a woman, other than his wife Ruth. This has come to be known as the Billy Graham Rule. Rev. Rick Warren and NFL quarterback Kurt Warner have claimed to follow the rule. Warner wrote in his book that he first applied the Billy Graham Rule in his marriage by not driving the babysitter home alone.
Graham transferred in January 1937 from Bob Jones College to Florida Bible Institute, and then finally to Wheaton College in 1939. Graham attended Wheaton College from 1939 to 1943, when he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts 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, and in 1947, at age 30, he became the youngest person to serve as a sitting college president during his tenure at Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minnesota. Graham served as the president of Northwestern College from 1948 to 1952.
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 n Florida, Graham was hired as the first full time evangelist of the new Youth for Christ International (YFCI) which was co-founded by Torrey Johnson and evangelist Charles Templeton He traveled throughout the United States and Europe as an evangelist for YFCI. Unlike many evangelists then and now, Graham had little formal theological training; when his friend Chuck Templeton urged him to join him in applying to Princeton Theological Seminary, Graham declined to do so.
Graham scheduled a series of revival meetings in Los Angeles in 1949, for which he erected circus tents in a parking lot. The Los Angeles revival is considered to be the time when Graham became a national religious igure.Graham's rise to national prominence is partly because of 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.
Billy Graham has conducted many 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 because of 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 led his first crusade, which was in London.
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:
, a weekly radio program broadcast around the world for more than 50 years
My Answer, carried by newspapers across the United States and distributed
by Tribune Media Services
Civil Rights Movement and Anti-Segregation,
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. He also got in a fight with a southern KKK member about why integration of the blacks into the Southern society was important. 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 Martin Luther King, Jr. from jail during the 1960s civil rights; 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.
Graham's visibility and popularity extended into the secular world. He created his own pavilion for the 1964 New York World's Fair. He appeared as a guest on a 1969 Woody Allen television special, where he joined the comedian in a witty exchange on theological matters. 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 partheid era, Graham consistently refused to visit South Africa until its government 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.
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. 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.
On September 22, 1991 Graham held the largest event he ever led in North America on The Great Lawn of New York City's Central Park. City officials estimated over 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 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 24–26, 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 ope" 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 hydrocephalus, 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.
There had been controversy over where the burial place would be until a press release in June 13, 2007, saying 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. 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 after undergoing treatment for intestinal bleeding, but his condition was not life-threatening.
In April, 2010, Graham, now 91 and with substantial vision and hearing loss, made a rare public appearance at the re-dedication of the renovated Billy Graham Library. Graham's grandson, Will Graham told reporters that his grandfather has "got a lot more energy and he's talking about preaching one more time," stating that it would probably be a televised event rather than a stadium crusade.
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.
Politically, Graham was a registered member of the Democratic Party. He leaned Republican during the presidency of Richard Nixon. He did not completely ally himself with the religious right, saying that Jesus did not have a political party. He did not openly endorse political candidates, but he gave 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.
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. He visited in the Oval Office with Truman in 1950, urging him to counter communism in North Korea. However, Graham and his accompanying pastors were not aware of Washington protocol; they appeased the press corps waiting outside with details of the visit, with the three pastors even acquiescing to the calls of the press to kneel on the White House lawn, as if praying. Truman wrote about Graham in his autobiography 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.
This led to Truman calling Graham a "counterfeit" publicity seeker, and Truman did not speak to Graham for years afterward.
Graham has often told the story, usually as a warning that he would not reveal his conversations with world leaders.
Graham became a regular in the Oval Office during the tenure of Dwight D. Eisenhower, whom he urged to intervene with federal troops in the case of the Little Rock Nine, and it was at that time, on a Washington golf course, that he met and became close friends with Vice President Richard Nixon Graham was invited by isenhower to visit with him when the former president was on his deathbed. Graham also counseled Lyndon B. Johnson, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and the Bush family.
The single notable exception among modern presidents is John F. Kennedy, with whom Graham golfed, but Kennedy was Roman Catholic; Graham enjoyed a friendship with Nixon and prominently supported him over Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election. Nixon wrote to Graham after that election: "I have often told friends that when you went into the ministry, politics lost one of its potentially greatest practitioners."Graham spent the last night of Johnson's presidency in the White House, and he stayed for the first night of Nixon's.
After Nixon's victorious 1968 presidential campaign, Graham was an adviser, visiting the White House and leading some of the private church services that the President organized there. Nixon offered Graham the ambassadorship to Israel in a meeting they had with Golda Meir, but Graham turned down Nixon's offer. Nixon appeared at one of Graham's revivals in East Tennessee in 1970; the event drew one of the largest crowds to ever gather in Tennessee. Nixon became the first President to give a speech from an evangelist's platform. However, their friendship became strained when Graham rebuked Nixon for his post-Watergate behavior and the profanity heard on the Watergate tapes; they eventually reconciled after Nixon's resignation. Graham announced at that time, “I’m out of politics.”
After a special law was passed on his behalf, Graham was allowed to conduct the first religious service on the steps of the Capitol building in 1952 When Graham was hospitalized briefly in 1976, three Presidents called in one day to wish him well: former President Nixon, current President Ford and President-elect Carter.
He was one of Reagan's personal guests at his inauguration and gave the benediction at George H. W. Bush's inauguration. He stayed at the White House the night before George H. W. Bush (who called Graham "America's pastor") launched the Persian Gulf War. Two days before the 2000 presidential election, Graham spoke at a prayer breakfast in Florida with George W. Bush in attendance. At a New York revival in 2005, Bill Clinton recalled how he had attended Graham's revival as a boy in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1959.
Graham has 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 service of former First Lady Pat Nixon in 1993 and the funeral of Richard Nixon in 1994. He was unable to officiate at the state funeral of Ronald Reagan on June 11, 2004, because of recent double hip replacement surgery, which former President George H. W. Bush acknowledged during his eulogy. Graham had been Reagan's first choice. Because of Graham's hospitalization, the Reverend John Danforth, a Missouri Republican Senator during Reagan's tenure, officiated at the funeral. Failing health prevented Graham from officiating at the state funeral of Gerald R. Ford on January 2, 2007, as well as the funeral of former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson in July 2007.
On April 25, 2010, President Barack Obama visited Rev. Graham at his home in North Carolina where they “had a private prayer.”
Foreign policy views
Graham has been outspoken against communism and supportive of U.S. Cold War policy, including the Vietnam War. However, 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 current North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, he had "exchanged gifts with him." Graham has given a globe surmounted with doves to the North Korean Friendship Museum.
During a March 12, 1991, CBS broadcast of Billy Graham's Long Island, New York crusade, 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."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.
Discussion of Jews with Nixon
In 2002, declassified "Richard Nixon tapes" confirmed remarks made by Graham to President Nixon three decades earlier. Captured on the tapes, Graham agreed with Nixon that Jews control the American media, calling it a "stranglehold" during a 1972 conversation with Nixon. These remarks were characterized as anti-Semitic by Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League and evangelical author Richard Land.
When the tapes were publicly released, Graham stated, " 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,and "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." 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."
In 2009 fresh 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 observing Jewish law.
Graham, along with associates whom he called the quot;Team", created in 1948 what one of them called, "The Modesto Manifesto", because they produced it in Modesto, California. They decided among themselves to avoid certain problems that gave evangelists a bad name. The first item on the list was a matter of money, to which Graham was sensitive, because of the practices of some unscrupulous evangelists. (The "manifesto" proceeded to note the dangers of sexual immorality, criticism of local churches, and exaggerated publicity.)
Awards and honors
Graham has frequently been honored by surveys, including "Greatest Living American" and has consistently ranked among the most admired persons in the United States and the world Between 1950 and 1990, he appeared most frequently on Gallup's list of most admired people. The United States Postal Service has said that Graham is one of the few Americans, along with the current President, who can be delivered mail that simply reads his name and the country: "Billy Graham, America."
He has received the Congressional Gold Medal from the United States Congress and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Reagan, America's highest civilian honors. President Bill Clinton and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole awarded Graham the Congressional Gold Medal in a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol in 1996. In December 2001, he was presented with an honorary knighthood, Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE), for his international contributions to civic and religious life over 60 years.
In 1971, Graham's hometown of Charlotte held "Billy Graham Day" at which President Nixon made an appearance On May 30, 1999, Graham was invited to give the pre-race invocation at the Indianapolis 500. 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. A highway in Charlotte bears Graham's name. In 1986, Graham was given North Carolina's highest honor, the North Carolina Award, for public service.
In 2000, former First Lady Nancy Reagan presented the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award to Graham. Graham has been a friend of the Reagan’s for years. 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.
In 1971, Graham received an award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews. After the Nixon tapes were released, Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League called for Graham to return the award. He was honored by the American Jewish Committee with its National Interreligious Award for his efforts on behalf of Jewish-Christian relations; the committee called him one of the century's greatest Christian friends of Jews.
For providing a platform during his events for many Christian musical artists, Graham was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1999 by the Gospel Music Association. A professorial chair is named after him at the Southern Baptist Samford University, the Billy Graham Professor of Evangelism and Church Growth. His alma mater Wheaton College has an archive of his papers at the Billy Graham Center. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth. Graham has received 20 honorary degrees and refused at least that many more. In San Francisco, CA, the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, has often erroneously been called the Billy Graham Civic Auditorium and falsely considered to be named in his honor, but is actually named after the rock & roll promoter Bill Graham.
The movie Billy: The Early Years premiered in theaters officially on October 10, 2008, less than one month before Graham's 90th birthday. Graham has yet to 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."Graham's eldest daughter Gigi, however, has praised the movie and has also been hired as a consultant to help promote the film.
More to Come ………..
Latest 20 Sermons
More to Come ………..