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Billy Graham


William Franklin "Billy" Graham, Jr., found Christ at a tent revival in Charlotte, NC, when he was sixteen. He attended Bob Jones University, Florida Bible College, and Wheaton College, receiving a degree in anthropology in 1943. That year, he married Ruth Bell (who died in 2007). He also took the pulpit of First Baptist Church in Western Springs, IL, and the host microphone of "Songs of the Night," a Sunday radio sermon and gospel sing. This led to his preaching at the Youth for Christ rallies organized by Rev. Torrey M. Johnson, another radio evangelist. Under Johnson's aegis, Graham started Graham Youth for Christ, which toured through North America and Great Britain.

Thanks to support from the Hearst newspapers, whose publisher liked his anticommunism, Graham and his "crusades" made headlines and attracted people to hear his evangelical Protestantism. The renamed Crusade for Christ ran eight weeks in Los Angeles in 1948 and drew two million people to a 16-week rally in New York City's Madison Square Garden in 1957. In 1966, Graham preached to almost one million people in London. He preached in North Korea and in China. In 1986, while preaching in Paris, he used direct satellite transmissions to reach 30 other French cities.

Graham preached to integrated crowds long before other Southern preachers did. His organization's books were open for inspection, and he paid himself expenses plus "the salary of a fairly well-paid local minister." (According to the New York Times, he received $50,000 in 1980, or $142,000 in today's money.)

In 1950, he founded the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which oversaw his weekly "Hour of Decision" radio show, his Decision magazine, television shows for Christian networks, and the publishing of more than thirty of his books. Graham, a registered Democrat, advised every president from Johnson to Obama. Richard Nixon addressed one of his crusades, and George W. Bush credits Graham with convincing him to give up alcohol.

Billy Graham's last crusade, which drew 242,000 people, was in 2005 in New York City. After it, he retired to his home in Montreat, NC, where he died on February 21, 2018, at age 99.


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