Billy Graham

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I think that everybody that loves or knows Christ, whether they are conscious of it or not, they are members of the body of Christ ... [God] is calling people out of the world for his name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they have been called by God. They may not know the name of Jesus but they know in their hearts that they need something they do not have, and they turn to the only light they have, and I think that they are saved and they are going to be with us in heaven. [148]

Iain Murray, writing from a conservative Protestant standpoint, argues that "Graham's concessions are sad words from one who once spoke on the basis of biblical certainties." [149]

Views on women

In 1970, Graham stated that feminism was "an echo of our overall philosophy of permissiveness" and that women did not want to be "competitive juggernauts pitted against male chauvinists". [150] [151] He further stated that the role of wife, mother, and homemaker was the destiny of "real womanhood" according to the Judeo-Christian ethic. Graham's assertions, published in the Ladies' Home Journal , elicited letters of protest, and were offered as rebuttal to the establishment of "The New Feminism" section of the publication that had added following a sit-in protest at the Journal offices demanding female representation on the staff of the publication. [152] [153] [154] [155]

Graham's daughter Bunny recounted her father denying her and her sisters higher education. As reported in The Washington Post : [156]

Bunny remembers being groomed for the life of wife, homemaker, and mother. "There was never an idea of a career for us", she said. "I wanted to go to nursing school – Wheaton had a five-year program – but Daddy said no. No reason, no explanation, just 'No.' It wasn't confrontational and he wasn't angry, but when he decided, that was the end of it." She added, "He has forgotten that. Mother has not."

Graham's daughter Anne is a Christian minister, leading a Christian ministry organization known as AnGeL Ministries. [157] [ non-primary source needed ]

Graham talked his future wife, Ruth, into abandoning her ambition to evangelize in Tibet in favor of staying in the United States to marry him – and that to do otherwise would be "to thwart God's obvious will". [156] After Ruth agreed to marry him, Graham cited the Bible for claiming authority over her, saying, "then I'll do the leading and you do the following". [156] According to her obituary, Ruth was active in Christian ministry after they married, often teaching Sunday School. [158] Her obituary states that in addition to his two sons, all three of Graham's daughters would become Christian ministers as well. [159]

Views on homosexuality

Graham regarded homosexuality as a sin, and in 1974 described it as "a sinister form of perversion". [160] [161] In 1993, he said that he thought AIDS might be a "judgment" from God, but two weeks later he retracted the remark, saying: "I don't believe that, and I don't know why I said it." [162] Graham opposed same-sex marriage, stating that "I believe the home and marriage is the foundation of our society and must be protected." [163] [164] Graham's obituary noted that his stated position was that he did not want to talk about homosexuality as a political issue. [162] Corky Siemaszko, writing for NBC News, noted that after the 1993 incident, Graham "largely steered clear of the subject". [165] However, Graham appeared to take a more tolerant approach to the issue of homosexuality when he appeared on the May 2, 1997, episode of 20/20 , stating "I think that the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin, but the Bible also teaches that pride is a sin, jealously is a sin, and hate is a sin, evil thoughts are a sin, and so I don't think that homosexuality should be chosen as the overwhelming sin that we are doing today." [166]

In 2012, Graham and his son, Franklin, publicly endorsed North Carolina Amendment 1, a measure to ban same-sex marriage in the state. They both condemned President Obama's public declaration of support for same-sex marriage later that year. [167] [168]

Awards and honors

Graham was frequently honored by surveys, including "Greatest Living American", and consistently ranked among the most admired persons in the United States and the world. [47] He appeared most frequently on Gallup's list of most admired people. [169] On the day of his death, Graham had been on Gallup's Top 10 "Most Admired Man" list 61 times, and held the highest rank of any person since the list began in 1948. [15]

In 1967, he was the first Protestant to receive an honorary degree from Belmont Abbey College, a Roman Catholic school. [170] In 1983, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by US President Ronald Reagan. [171]

Graham received the Big Brother of the Year Award for his work on behalf of children. He was cited by the George Washington Carver Memorial Institute for his contributions to race relations. He 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. [172]

In 1999, the Gospel Music Association inducted Graham into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame to recognize his contributions to Christian music artists such as Michael W. Smith, dc Talk, Amy Grant, Jars of Clay, and others who performed at the Billy Graham Crusades. [173] Graham was the first non-musician inducted, [174] and had also helped to revitalize interest in hymns and create new favorite songs. [175] Singer Michael W. Smith was active in Billy Graham Crusades as well as Samaritan's Purse. [176] Smith sang "Just As I Am" in a tribute to Graham at the 44th GMA Dove Awards. [177] He also sang it at the memorial service honoring Graham at the United States Capitol rotunda on February 28, 2018. [178] [179]

In 2000, former First Lady Nancy Reagan presented the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award to Graham. Graham was a friend of the Reagans for years. [180]

In 2001, Queen Elizabeth II awarded him an honorary knighthood. The honor was presented to him by Sir Christopher Meyer, British Ambassador to the US at the British Embassy in Washington DC on December 6, 2001. [181]

A professorial chair is named after him at the Alabama Baptist-affiliated Samford University, the Billy Graham Professor of Evangelism and Church Growth. [140] His alma mater, Wheaton College, has an archive of his papers at the Billy Graham Center. [13] The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry. Graham received 20 honorary degrees and refused at least that many more. [47] In San Francisco, California, the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium is sometimes erroneously called the "Billy Graham Civic Auditorium" and incorrectly considered to be named in his honor, but it is actually named after the rock and roll promoter Bill Graham. [182]

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. [183] A highway in Charlotte bears Graham's name, [102] as does I-240 near Graham's home in Asheville.

As Graham's final crusade approached in 2005, his friend Pat Boone chose to create a song in honor of Graham, [184] which he co-wrote and produced with David Pack and Billy Dean, [185] who digitally combined studio recordings of various artists into what has been called a "'We Are the World'-type" production. [186] Titled "Thank You Billy Graham", the song's video [187] was introduced by Bono, [186] and included Faith Hill, MxPx, [184] John Ford Coley, John Elefante, Mike Herrera, Michael McDonald, Jeffrey Osborne, LeAnn Rimes, Kenny Rogers, Connie Smith, Michael Tait, and other singers, with brief narration by Larry King. [188] It was directed by Brian Lockwood [189] as a tribute album. [190] In 2013, the album My Hope: Songs Inspired by the Message and Mission of Billy Graham was recorded by Amy Grant, Kari Jobe, Newsboys, Matthew West, tobyMac, and other music artists with new songs to honor Graham during his My Hope America with Billy Graham outreach and the publication of his book The Reason for My Hope: Salvation. [191] Other songs written to honor Graham include "Hero of the Faith" written by Eddie Carswell of NewSong, which became a hit, [192] "Billy, You're My Hero" by Greg Hitchcock, [193] "Billy Graham" by The Swirling Eddies, "Billy Graham's Bible" by Joe Nichols, "Billy Frank" by Randy Stonehill, and an original song titled "Just as I Am" by Fernando Ortega. [184]

The movie Billy: The Early Years officially premiered in theaters on October 10, 2008, less than one month before Graham's 90th birthday. [194] Graham did not 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". [195] Graham's eldest daughter, Gigi, praised the film and was hired as a consultant to help promote it. [196]

Other honors

Ruth and Billy Graham Congressional Gold Medal.jpg
Ruth and Billy Graham Congressional Gold Medal (reverse).jpg
1996 Congressional Gold Medal shows Ruth and Billy Graham in profile (obverse); the Ruth and Billy Graham Children's Health Center in Asheville, North Carolina (reverse).

Personal life

Billy Graham and his wife in Oslo, Norway, 1955. Billy Graham - L0055 860Fo30141612210024.jpg
Billy Graham and his wife in Oslo, Norway, 1955.


On August 13, 1943, Graham married Wheaton classmate Ruth Bell, whose parents were Presbyterian missionaries in China. [216] Her father, L. Nelson Bell, was a general surgeon. [47] Ruth died on June 14, 2007, at age 87. [217] The couple were married for almost 64 years. [218]

Graham and his wife had five children together. [219] Virginia Leftwich (Gigi) Graham (b. 1945), an inspirational speaker and author; Anne Graham Lotz (b. 1948), leader of AnGeL ministries; Ruth Graham (b. 1950), founder and president of Ruth Graham & Friends and leader of conferences throughout the US and Canada; Franklin Graham (b. 1952), president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and president and CEO of international relief organization Samaritan's Purse; and Nelson Edman Graham (b. 1958), a pastor who runs East Gates Ministries International, [220] which distributes Christian literature in China.

At the time of his death at age 99 in 2018, Graham was survived by 5 children, 19 grandchildren (including Will Graham and Tullian Tchividjian), 41 great-grandchildren, and 6 great-great-grandchildren. [221]


In 1953, he became a member of the First Baptist Church Dallas, although he never lived in the state of Texas. [222] In 2008, he changed his membership to the First Baptist Church of Spartanburg, South Carolina, about a 1.5-hour drive from his home in Montreat, North Carolina.


Ceremony to the Reverend Billy Graham at the Capitol Rotunda, February 28, 2018. Rev. Billy Graham Lying in Honor (40830035821).jpg
Ceremony to the Reverend Billy Graham at the Capitol Rotunda, February 28, 2018.

Graham died of natural causes on February 21, 2018, at his home in Montreat, North Carolina, at the age of 99. [223] [224]

Billy Graham
Billy Graham bw photo, April 11, 1966.jpg
Graham in 1966
Personal details
William Franklin Graham Jr.

(1918-11-07)November 7, 1918
DiedFebruary 21, 2018(2018-02-21) (aged 99)
Montreat, North Carolina, U.S.
Denomination Baptist (Southern Baptist Convention)
(m. 1943;died 2007)
Children5, including Anne and Franklin
Profession Evangelist
Signature Billy Graham Signature.svg
President of Northwestern College
In office
External videos
Nuvola apps kaboodle.svg Capitol Visitation for Billy Graham, February 28, 2018, C-SPAN
Nuvola apps kaboodle.svg Funeral Service, Billy Graham Library, Charlotte, North Carolina, March 2, 2018, C-SPAN

On February 28 and March 1, 2018, Graham became the fourth private citizen in United States history to lie in honor at the United States Capitol rotunda in Washington, D.C. [225] [226] He is the first religious leader to be so honored. At the ceremony, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan called Graham "America's pastor". President Donald Trump said Graham was "an ambassador for Christ". [179] In addition, televangelist Jim Bakker paid respect to Graham, stating he was the greatest preacher since Jesus. He also said that Graham visited him in prison. [227] [228]

A private funeral service was held on March 2, 2018. Graham was buried beside his wife at the foot of the cross-shaped brick walkway in the Prayer Garden, on the northeast side of the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina. [229] Graham's pine plywood casket was handcrafted in 2006 by convicted murderers at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, and topped with a wooden cross that was nailed to it by the prisoners. [230] [231]

He is honored with a commemoration on the liturgical calendar of the Anglican Church in North America on February 21. [232]

Honorary doctorates

He has received several honorary doctorates. [233]

Media portrayals


Graham's My Answer advice column appeared in newspapers for more than 60 years as of 2017. [236]


Graham authored the following books; [237] many of which have become bestsellers. In the 1970s, for instance, The Jesus Generation sold 200,000 copies in the first two weeks after its publication; Angels: God's Secret Agents had sales of a million copies within 90 days after release; How to Be Born Again was said to have made publishing history with its first printing of 800,000 copies." [47]

  • Calling Youth to Christ (1947)
  • America's Hour of Decision (1951)
  • I Saw Your Sons at War (1953)
  • Peace with God (1953, 1984)
  • Freedom from the Seven Deadly Sins (1955)
  • The Secret of Happiness (1955, 1985)
  • Billy Graham Talks to Teenagers (1958)
  • My Answer (1960)
  • Billy Graham Answers Your Questions (1960)
  • World Aflame (1965)
  • The Challenge (1969)
  • The Jesus Generation (1971)
  • Angels: God's Secret Agents (1975, 1985)
  • How to Be Born Again (1977)
  • The Holy Spirit (1978)
  • Evangelist to the World (1979)
  • Till Armageddon (1981)
  • Approaching Hoofbeats (1983)
  • A Biblical Standard for Evangelists (1984)
  • Unto the Hills (1986)
  • Facing Death and the Life After (1987)
  • Answers to Life's Problems (1988)
  • Hope for the Troubled Heart (1991)
  • Storm Warning (1992)
  • Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham (1997, 2007)
  • Hope for Each Day (2002)
  • The Key to Personal Peace (2003)
  • Living in God's Love: The New York Crusade (2005)
  • The Journey: How to Live by Faith in an Uncertain World (2006)
  • Wisdom for Each Day (2008)
  • Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well (2011)
  • The Heaven Answer Book (2012)
  • The Reason for My Hope: Salvation (2013) [238]
  • Where I Am: Heaven, Eternity, and Our Life Beyond the Now (2015) [239]

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Further reading

Academic offices
Preceded by President of Northwestern Bible College
Succeeded by
Richard Elvee
Preceded by Templeton Prize
Succeeded by
Honorary titles
Preceded by Persons who have lain in state or honor
in the United States Capitol rotunda

February 28 – March 1, 2018
Succeeded by