Growing up in North Carolina, I’ve heard a lot about Reverend Billy Graham. As a Christian, I know what an absolutely incredible disciple he was and what he contributed to the world through his sermons. Today, Reverend Billy Graham died and the hearts of many are shattered. As a North Carolinian, I feel as though I’ve lost a family member. Reverend Graham has been one of North Carolina’s greatest treasures. It is with glowing hearts that we get to claim him as our own. With his passing, I felt that his life should be shared with everyone.
William Franklin Graham Jr was born in Charlotte, North Carolina on November 17, 1918. Raised on a dairy farm by his parents William and Morrow Graham with two younger sisters and a younger brother, he attended Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. Billy Graham grew up as a child who ran around, climbed trees, and loved to read. When it came time for him to join a local youth group, he was denied on the grounds that he was “too worldly.” A man who worked on the Graham dairy farm suggested that Billy go see evangelist Mordecai Ham who was holding a series of revival meetings in Charlotte. Billy went and says that his was when he was converted at the age of 16.
Billy Graham finished college and went off to Bob Jones College. It wasn’t long after starting that he realized that the course work wasn’t for him and that there were too many rules. Bob Jones Sr told Billy to not waste his voice at some small Baptist church, but rather, to use it spread the Gospel. Taking what Bob Jones Sr said to heart, Billy Graham transferred to Florida Bible Institute where he said he felt the calling on the 18th green of a golf course. He knew then that preaching was his purpose.
In 1943, Billy Graham graduated from Wheaton College with a degree in anthropology but it wasn’t his degree that defined him; what defined Billy Graham’s time at Wheaton was that this was when he decided to accept the Bible as the perfect word of God.
In 1943, Billy Graham married Ruth Bell and they had five kids: Virginia, Anne, Ruth, Franklin, and Nelson. Billy Graham has 19 grandchildren and many great-grandchildren.
His list of sermons and crusades are numerous. What makes Billy Graham outstanding was what he did with his Gospel. In 1953, Billy Graham tore down ropes that divided the audience into sections of race. Billy Graham recounts in his autobiography that he told two of the ushers that if they put the barriers back up, they would have could have a revival without him. In 1957, Reverend Graham went more public about his feelings on integration when he made Thomas Kilgore and Gardner Taylor, two African-American ministers, members of his New York Crusade executive committee and also invited Martin Luther King Jr to join him in the pulpit during the New York Crusade which was a 16-week revival series. Graham and King maintained a friendship even through differences on certain issues; Graham even posted bail for King during the Birmingham campaign. Graham famously said “there is no scriptural basis for segregation.”
Billy Graham is a recipient of the President Medal of Freedom (1983), National Religious Broadcasters Award of Merit (1986), receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (1989), Congressional Gold Medal (1996), Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation Freedom Award (2000), and honorary knighthood (2001). In May of 2007, The Billy Graham Library and Museum is dedicated in Charlotte, North Carolina. He was also known as counselor to the Presidents.