Rev. Billy Graham, a North Carolina farmer’s son who preached to millions in stadium events he called crusades, becoming a pastor to presidents and the nation’s best-known Christian evangelist for more than 60 years, died on Wednesday February 21 2018 at his home in Montreat, N.C. He was 99.
Mr. Graham took the role of evangelist to a new level, lifting it from the sawdust floors of canvas tents in small-town America to the podiums of packed stadiums in the world’s major cities. Mr. Graham’s standing as a religious leader was unusual: Unlike the pope or the Dalai Lama, he spoke for neither a particular church (though he was a Southern Baptist) nor a particular people. At times, he seemed to fill the role of national clergyman.
Mr. Graham’s image was tainted in 2002 with the release of audiotapes that Nixon had secretly recorded in the White House three decades earlier. The two men were heard agreeing that liberal Jews controlled the media and were responsible for pornography.
In the last few decades, a new generation of evangelists, including Mr. Graham’s elder son, Franklin Graham, began developing their own followings. In November 1995, on his 77th birthday, Mr. Graham named Franklin to succeed him as head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. His daughter Anne Graham Lotz and his grandsons Will Graham and William Graham Tullian Tchividjian are also in ministry.
William Franklin Graham Jr. — Billy Frank to his family and friends as a boy — was born near Charlotte on Nov. 7, 1918, the first of four children of William Franklin Graham and Morrow Coffey Graham.
After he graduated from high school in 1936, Mr. Graham spent the summer selling Fuller brushes door to door before spending an unhappy semester at Bob Jones College, then an unaccredited, fundamentalist school in Cleveland, Tenn. (It is now Bob Jones University, in Greenville, S.C.) He then went to another unaccredited but less restrictive institution, the Florida Bible Institute (now Trinity College), near Tampa.
After graduating from the Bible Institute, Mr. Graham went to Wheaton College in Illinois, among the nation’s most respected evangelical colleges. At Wheaton, from which he received a degree in anthropology in 1943, he met Ruth McCue Bell, a fellow student whose father was Dr. L. Nelson Bell, a prominent Presbyterian missionary surgeon who had spent many years in China.
Soon after marrying Ms. Bell in 1943, Mr. Graham accepted the pulpit of the First Baptist Church in Western Springs, Ill., a Chicago suburb.
The Grahams lived on a 200-acre mountain retreat in Montreat, N.C. His wife, Ruth Bell Graham, died in 2007. He is survived by his sons, the Rev. William Franklin III and the Rev. Nelson Graham, known as Ned; three daughters, Virginia Tchividjian (known as Gigi), Anne Graham Lotz and Ruth Graham McIntyre; and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.