Who is Billy Graham?
William Franklin "Billy" Graham, Jr. (1918-present) is an American Christian evangelist, ordained as a Southern Baptist minister, who rose to celebrity status in 1949 with the national media backing of William Randolph Hearst and Henry Luce.
His sermons were broadcast on radio and television, some still being re-broadcast today.
Graham is notable for having been a spiritual adviser to several United States Presidents; he was particularly close to Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard M. Nixon.
During the civil rights movement, he began to support integrated seating for his revivals and crusades; in 1957 he invited the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. to preach jointly at a revival in New York City, where they appeared together at Madison Square Garden, and bailed the minister out of jail in the 1960s when he was arrested in demonstrations.
Graham operates a variety of media and publishing outlets. 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.
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.
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 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. During his crusades, he has frequently used the altar call song, "Just As I Am".
Pastor to Presidents
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. Truman disliked him and did not speak with him for years after that meeting.
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. At that time Graham met and would become close friends with Vice President Richard Nixon. After a special law was passed in 1952, Graham conducted the first religious service on the steps of the Capitol building. Eisenhower asked for Graham while on his deathbed.
The preacher enjoyed a friendship with Nixon. He supported him over John F. Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election. Graham was more sympathetic to Republican administrations.
He 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 became an adviser, regularly visiting the White House and leading the president's private worship services. In a meeting they had with Golda Meir, Nixon offered Graham the ambassadorship to Israel, but he refused.
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. Their friendship became strained in 1973 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 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, 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. This was mentioned by George Bush in his eulogy.
On April 25, 2010, President Barack Obama visited Rev. Graham at his home in Montreat, North Carolina where they “had a private prayer.”
- "Billy Graham." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (with minor edits), under GFDL.