William Franklin "Billy" Graham

portrait of Billy Graham
U.S. News & World Report photo by Warren K. Leffler (11 April 1966)
Billy Graham signature

Born: 7 November 1918, Charlotte, North Carolina

The eldest of four children, Graham grew up on a dairy farm near Charlotte. At the start of Prohibition his father forced Billy and his sister Katherine to drink beer until they were sick, fostering a life-long aversion to drink. Rejected by a local youth group for being "too worldly", a farm hand urged him to go to a revival led by evangelist Mordecai Ham, Graham was converted in 1934. After high school he went to Bob Jones College but found it too legalistic and transferred to Florida Bible Institute (now Trinity College of Florida) at Temple Terrace, Florida the next year (1937). He relates that he received his "calling on the 18th green of the Temple Terrace Golf and Country Club". Graham finished his education with a degree in anthropology from Wheaton College (Wheaton, Illinois) in 1943, and married classmate Ruth Bell the same year. While pastor at First Baptist Church of Western Springs, Illinois he took over a friend's radio ministry with funds from his parish in 1944. In 1947 he became president of Northwestern Bible College at Minneapolis, at 30 the youngest college or university president in the US. He started the first Billy Graham Crusade the same year, preaching to 6,000 at Grand Rapids, Michigan; he would conduct over 400 crusades in 185 countries on six continents by 2005. In 1953 he tore down the ropes dividing revival seating by race. In 1957 Martin Luther King, Jr joined Graham for a 16-week New York City crusade attended by 2.3 million. Tensions later rose between Graham and King over King's anti-war stance and Graham's meetings with segregationist politicians. Although he would be attacked for it, Graham was a staunch supporter of evangelical outreach; including founding the Lausanne Movement in 1974, an organization involving 2,700 diverse church leaders from 150 countries, the organization remains active today. Graham spoke with all the presidents from Truman to Obama and served as a spiritual advisor of some intimacy to both Johnson and Nixon. Graham has had Parkinson's disease since 1992 and no longer appears in public or grants interviews.

Biography from Wikipedia and Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

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