Billy Graham
Copyright Michael D. Robbins 2005

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"My one purpose in life is to help people find a personal relationship with God, which, I believe, comes through knowing Christ."

Bill Clinton. Clinton wrote about Graham:
"When I became president, Billy counseled me and prayed with and for me as he had with so many of my predecessors. He gave the invocation at both my inaugurals. We talked about lots of things and I was always inspired by his wise insights ... He ... visited me after the pain of my private sin became public and the subject of political debate. We talked about repenting, atonement and forgiveness. He was a source of strength, reassurance, and faith beyond my ability to relate ... But to me, he is a friend, a model of Christian charity, an intensely human pastor."

"Hell is not the most popular of preaching topics. I don't like to preach on it. But I must if I am to proclaim the whole counsel of God. We must not avoid warning of it. The most outspoken messages on hell, and the most graphic references to it, came from Jesus Himself. ... Jesus used three words to describe hell. ... The third word that He used is 'fire.' Jesus used this symbol over and over. This could be literal fire, as many believe. Or it could be symbolic. ... I've often thought that this fire could possibly be a burning thirst for God that is never quenched. What a terrible fire that would be--never to find satisfaction, joy, or fulfillment!"

Bio_Graham, Billy

Billy Graham is arguably the most well known evangelist preacher in the world. He has created a tremendous religious following through his live and televised performances, through film, video, and books. His message has been essentially the same sermon for over 50 years: to lead as many as possible to a personal relationship and commitment to Christ. He attributes his success to the integrity of the ministry and the power of the message.  

A great deal of planning and marketing have gone into getting Graham's word out. His works include 25 publications culminated by an autobiography, "Just As I Am," published in 1997. Billy Graham is known around the globe, from remote African villages to New York City, from heads of state to aboriginals in Australia and nomads in the Middle East. He has preached Crusades in most countries of the former Eastern bloc and the former Soviet Union.

Born November 7, 1918, William Franklin Graham, Jr., grew up on a dairy farm in North Carolina.

As a youth he is attributed with reading of books on wide variety of subjects and being a hard worker. He attended church every Sunday, out of tradition if not faith. It wasn’t until near his 16th birthday that he committed his life to Christ. In the autumn of 1934, the traveling evangelist, Mortacai Ham came to Charlotte, North Carolina with charges of moral laxity. Billy attended the meetings, partly attracted by the controversy, but was led by Ham's preaching to a conviction of his own sin and thereby commited his own life to Christ.

Billy soon began his own style preaching, was ordained in 1939 by the Southern Baptist Convention, and built his knowledge of scripture at Florida Bible Institute (now Trinity College in Florida). In 1943 he graduated from Wheaton College in Illinois and married fellow student Ruth McCue Bell. He joined Youth for Christ, an organization founded for ministry to youth and servicemen and began preaching throughout the United States and in Europe in the immediate post-war era.

He was a rising evangelist with a distinctive flamboyant style: charasmatic, youthful, and intent on captivating audiences to commit their lives to Jesus. His entertaining style brought in large crowds, and he is acknowledged today as a major influence in creating the pop-culture style ministry through a flashy, energetic, and tireless advocacy of the needs of youth. He wore loud ties, bright suits, and was backed up by singing girls and band instrumentals at innovative events. Graham led the pack of other vangelists who wooed teen-packed rallies with their strong personalities. He combined born-again religion to the entertainment industry, to which both William Randolph Hearst and President Truman highly praised his efforts as effective tools against the emerging trend of juvenile delinquency.

Professionally, in December 1947, Graham became president of the Northwestern Schools in Minneapolis, but the Los Angeles Crusade in 1949 launched Mr. Graham into international prominence. Early Crusades were routinely extended in length and overflow of venues was common. A New York City Crusade in Madison Square Garden in 1957 ran nightly for 16 weeks, and soon couldn't hold all the young people; a gathering in Chicago may have drawn over 70,000.

Of note, his work has attracted the attention of the influential in all walks of life, and he was personal advisor or friend to many U.S. presidents, including Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon and Ford, Carter and Reagan, and Clinton. Nixon was a featured guest at crusades in 1957, 1968 and 1970.
Only two controversies of note seem to be linked to his name. The one of most public significance is over alleged anti-semetic comments he exchanged with President Nixon on 1 February 1972. These comments did not come to light until 1994 when "The Haldemann Diaries", alleged that Billy Graham had conspired with Richard Nixon to remove prominent Jewish members from the media, on the belief that they were responsible for the nation's problems. The assertions received little attention until 2002, when the national archives released a tape of one of the conversations Nixon had recorded.

Secondarily, some more fundamentalist Christian groups are concerned about his too familiar and open association those of different faiths. In particular criticism has been levied against his acceptance of salvation for those unfamiliar with Jesus Christ. There are unsubstantiated claims that Mr. Graham has association with a nefarious ‘new world order’ group as well as masonry. He has been called the Protestant Pope by these detractors who justify their much harder and narrow line. 

In latter years, with Mr. Graham experiencing health issues, including Parkinson’s disease, he announced in 1996 that his eldest son, William Franklin Graham III, would be his successor. In May 1996, Billy and Ruth Graham received the Congressional Medal at a ceremony held at the Capitol in Washington, DC. Billy and his wife Ruth have raised three daughters and two sons, with 19 grandchildren, numerous great-grandchildren, and made their family home in North Carolina.

His demeanor is now described as humble and sincere, and his life characterized by a one-pointed commitment to Christ, down-home faith and tolerance, sparked by the enthusiasm of youth.

Date Event description comments
Nov 7, 1918 BORN  
October? 1934 Commited life to Christ With revivalist Mortacai Ham
1939 Ordained Southern Baptist minister  
1943 Graduated Wheaton College Married Ruth  
December 1947 Graham became president of the Northwestern Schools in Minneapolis  
1949 Los Angeles Crusade International prominence
1 February 1972 Fateful alleged anti-semitic comments  
1996 Ceded ministry to eldest son Franklin  
1997 Just As I Am," auto-biography published  
2002 Release of Haldeman diaries Revealed 1 feb 72 statements (main public image controversy)

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