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Billy Graham
Billy Graham bw photo, April 11, 1966.jpg
Billy Graham, on April 11, 1966
William Franklin Graham, Jr.

(1918-11-07)November 7, 1918
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
Occupation Evangelist
Title Doctor (Honorary)
Spouse(s) Ruth Graham
(m. 1943–2007; her death)
Children Franklin,
Billy Graham Signature.svg

William Franklin Graham, Jr. (November 7, 1918 – February 21, 2018), better known as Billy Graham, was an American Evangelical Christian minister and evangelist. He was a member of the Southern Baptist Convention. Graham is widely regarded as the most important and most influential preacher of the twentieth century. He was a spiritual advisor to several U.S. presidents. Graham preached in person to more people than anyone else who has ever lived. Until 2002, Graham's lifetime audience with radio and television broadcast was more than two billion people. Graham met every United States President since Harry S. Truman. He received many honors including the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.


Early life

Billy Graham's early life home

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

In his first year of college, he found both the schoolwork and rules too hard. He almost had to leave school, but Bob Jones, Sr., the founder of the college, said that in doing that, he would throw his life away. He told Graham, "At best, all you could amount to would be a poor country Baptist preacher somewhere out in the sticks... You have a voice that pulls. God can use that voice of yours. He can use it mightily."

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


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


The Billy Graham Library


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

Hearst intervention

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

Middle years

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

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

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

Later years

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

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

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

Billy Graham has preached Christianity to nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories. Graham has also preached to hundreds of millions more through television, videos, movie, and webcasts. He has been to over 41 evangelistic crusades since 1948. He began this ministry in 1947, and kept doing it until recently. He would often use a big area, such as a stadium, park, or a large street to speak at. Groups of up to 5,000 people would often sing in choir at his meetings. Graham would preach the gospel and then invite people to come forward. In 1992, one-quarter of the 155,000 in his Moscow audience came for Salvation upon his request.

Graham died from Parkinson's disease on February 21, 2018, at his home in Montreat, North Carolina, at the age of 99.


In politics, Graham was a member of the Democratic Party, but changed to Republican during the presidency of his friend Richard Nixon. He is no party member, because he says that Jesus did not have a political party. Though he does not support people running on politics in general, he has given his support in some cases over the years.

Pastor to Presidents

Billy Graham with President Richard Nixon

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

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

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

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

Foreign policy views

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

Awards and honors


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

National day

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


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

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See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Billy Graham para niños

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