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Billy Graham is widely believed to be one of the most prominent evangelists to have ever walked the earth. From America to the world, this Southern Baptist-ordained Christian minister dedicated the very best years of his long life to the dissemination of the gospel of Christ to as many countries and territories as he could reach.
Graham held several mega crusades in various locations across the world which were broadcast back in the 20th century and are also being rebroadcast in the 21st century. Through these means, he is said to have reached as many as 2 billion people with the gospel.
Billy Graham’s Biography
Billy Graham was born William Franklin Graham Jr. in Charlotte, North Carolina on November 7, 1918. His parents were dairy farmers and he had 3 younger siblings; sisters Catherine Morrow and Jean and a brother named Melvin Thomas. Growing up, his family belonged to the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church denomination. His early education was at the Sharon Grammar School after which he attended Sharon High School. Graham originally enrolled to study at Bob Jones College but after just one semester, he transferred to the Florida Bible Institute. He later bagged a degree in anthropology from Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois.
Graham was ordained at Peniel Baptist Church in Palatka, Florida in the year 1939 after graduating from the Florida Bible Institute. Thus, he was already an active Christian minister while studying at Wheaton College. After graduating from college, he served as the Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Western Springs, Illinois from 1943 to 1944. He launched his radio ministry shortly afterwards with assistance from his congregation.
At age 29, Billy Graham became the youngest president of the Northwestern Bible College in Minneapolis and he served in that capacity from 1948 to 1952. His ministry got a major boost when he got hired as a full-time evangelist by the Youth for Christ International (YFCI), a worldwide Christian movement aimed at reaching young people across the globe. Under this platform, he was able to tour the United States and Europe, preaching the gospel. In the year 1949, Graham organized a chain of crusades in the Los Angeles area which drew a lot of national media coverage. The program was originally scheduled to last just 3 weeks but it eventually lasted for 8 weeks and the heavy media coverage it garnered transformed Graham into a national figure in the US.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) was founded by Billy Graham in 1950 and has since blossomed into a global evangelical movement, cutting across different continents. In his over 5 decades of Christian ministry, Graham conducted a countless number of crusades in over 185 countries of the world. He equally served as a spiritual advisor to several United States presidents, starting from the 33rd (Harry S. Truman) to the 44th (Barack Obama). Graham was also a major contributor to the civil rights movement in America as he proscribed racial segregation from his crusade venues in the 1950s.
Family: Wife, Children, Grandchildren
Billy Graham was married for nearly 64 years to Ruth Graham (née Bell). The duo had met while studying as undergraduates at Wheaton College. They got married on August 13, 1943, shortly after their graduation from college. The couple had 5 children together.
As expected, Mrs Graham played a vital role in Billy Graham’s evangelistic career. She equally authored several books, most of which were works of poetry and she was also involved in painting. She was also a well-known philanthropist. Ruth Graham’s life came to an end on June 14, 2007, when she had attained the ripe age of 87.
The Grahams have 3 daughters; Virginia Leftwich “Gigi” Graham (born 1945), Anne Graham Lotz (born 1948), Ruth “Bunny” Graham (born 1950) and 2 sons; William Franklin Graham III (born 1952) and Nelson Edman Graham (born 1958). Interestingly, a good number of Graham’s children have towed their famous father’s path into Christian ministry. Billy Graham was already blessed with 19 grandchildren by the time he passed away.
Virginia Leftwich Graham is an inspirational speaker and writer. In 1998, she collaborated with her mother Ruth on the book Mothers Together. Anne Graham Lotz is an evangelist, an excellent public speaker and a renowned writer. She founded AnGeL Ministries, an independent Christian organization through which she operates her manifold ministry. Ruth Graham is a Bible teacher, best-selling author and public speaker.
Franklin Graham is an evangelist and missionary. He is the president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) and also of Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian humanitarian aid organization. Nelson Edman “Ned” Graham is a pastor and also the president of East Gates Ministries International, a non-profit organization dedicated to the service of the Church in China.
Billy Graham was diagnosed with hydrocephalus in 1992 which contributed to his retirement from full-time ministry. There was also a drastic reduction in the number of public appearances he made as the years rolled by. Despite his failing health, Graham lived to a very ripe old age.
On February 21, 2018, 99-year old Billy Graham died of natural causes at his home in Montreat, North Carolina, surrounded by his close family. His remains were laid to rest on March 2, 2018, following a private funeral service. He was buried in the Prayer Garden on the northeast side of the Billy Graham Library located in his hometown of Charlotte, the same place his wife was buried.