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Billy Graham made his mark as one of the most famed evangelists in the world.
A religious leader and spiritual adviser, he was one of the most well-known religious figures in history and his career spanned more than 60 years. Graham was born in 1918 in Charlotte, North Carolina and he rose to prominence in the '50s as a leading figure in the evangelical movement.
In later years, he became known for his close relationships with US presidents and his crusades around the world. Billy Graham's legacy will be remembered for generations to come. Billy Graham was born on November 7, 1918, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Billy's father was a dairy farmer and his mother had been a schoolteacher before she married Billy's dad. Billy went to the Florida Bible Institute and graduated with a degree in theology from Wheaton College. Billy became an ordained minister of the Southern Baptist Convention at age 21 and began preaching around America. He met Ruth McCue Bell while attending college.
Billy Graham died on February 21, 2018, at the age of 99 in his home in Montreat, North Carolina. Billy had been battling ill health for quite some time before he passed away due to natural causes.
In this article, we'll explore Billy Graham's life and legacy in detail, starting with his early years, his career as an evangelist, and the impact that he had on the world. Let's get to it!
Graham was worth an estimated $25 million at the time of his death.
At the time of his death, Billy Graham was recognized as one of the most influential evangelists in the world. Financially though, other evangelists, such as Kenneth Copeland had a higher net worth than Billy, estimated at $760 million. Billy Graham's annual salary, though not known exactly, was estimated to be over $450,000. Back in 1950, it was about $15,000 per year.
Graham was a tall man who stood at an approximate height of 6 ft 1 in (1.87 m).
Born on November 7, 1918, Billy Graham was 99 years old at the time of his passing on February 21, 2018. He was a Scorpio.
Billy Graham was born in 1918 to an American farm family. He grew up on a dairy farm near Charlotte, North Carolina. Billy’s father was stern, but Billy still managed to have fun with his brother Melvin and sisters Catherine and Jean. Billy enjoyed reading, going hunting with a friend or two, playing baseball, and walking around the neighborhood.
Billy was turned from his local church for being 'too worldly.' His parents were determined to see that all their children got a good education, so Billy Graham went to school at the Sharon High School after which Billy graduated and got into Bob Jones College. In college, Billy felt like the language of his coursework was unnecessarily complicated. He was almost expelled after his first semester there, but was kept grounded by the institution's founder, Bob Jones Sr.
In 1937, Graham transferred to the Florida Bible Institute in Temple Terrace and graduated three years later with a Bachelor of Theology degree.
He continued his education at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, where he made a few pivotal life choices. First and foremost, his beliefs regarding Christianity were strengthened during his time at Wheaton and he decided the Bible was an indisputable authority on all matters. He also became the pastor of the United Gospel Tabernacle church.
In 1943, Graham graduated from Wheaton with a degree in anthropology.
Billy Graham met his future wife Ruth McCue Bell at Wheaton College.
They were married in 1943. Ruth was the daughter of Presbyterian medical missionaries. She had been born and raised in Qingjiang, Jiangsu, China in a very religious household. Ruth herself was a Presbyterian and alongside her husband, who was by that time a Baptist, she taught Sunday school from time to time.
Billy and Ruth had five children. Franklin, Anne, Gigi, Ned, and Ruth. They had been married for 64 years until Ruth's death in 2007. She had been suffering from spinal meningitis and degenerative osteoarthritis for an extended period of time. Just before her death, Graham released a touching message, 'I am more and more in love with her today than when we first met over 65 years ago as students at Wheaton College,' She passed away the next day. Both Billy and Ruth are buried together at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Billy Graham is best known for his work as an evangelist and a pastor, as well as for the 'Crusades' he would regularly conduct. Billy’s work as a preacher was revered from the early stages of his career to the end, up until his death in 2018. Billy preached to live audiences of nearly 215 million people who came out to see him in over 185 countries around the world. Billy also reached hundreds of millions more through television, video, film, and webcasts.
Billy had been preaching since he was 16 years old but launched his official career at age 22 when he accepted a position as pastor at United Gospel Tabernacle church, Illinois, where he served between 1943-1944.
In 1948, Billy became the president of Northwestern Bible College in Minneapolis. He held that position until 1952. After an unfortunate case of mumps that prevented him from preaching for an extended period of time, Billy recovered and became an evangelist for Youth for Christ. He carried out work for his new position in the United States and Europe. He also preached with Martin Luther King, Jr. and acted as a spiritual counsel to Presidents Richard Nixon and Dwight Eisenhower. Almost every president of the United States has visited with Billy Graham, prayed with him, or even played golf with him.
Billy was also active on television since 1951 and had his own weekly program called ‘The Hour of Decision’ between 1950-2016. Billy also made guest appearances on other talk and religious shows. Billy was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1989 for his contributions to television. He was the first-ever clergyman to be awarded such a star.
Billy was naturally a humanitarian and always sought to help the less fortunate. Billy was particularly passionate about helping children, and those who were poor or in need of medical care. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) was established by Billy himself, which is still active today under the leadership of Billy's son, Franklin Graham. The BGEA currently operates several humanitarian projects around the world, which Billy was a part of before he passed away in 2018.
In a 1973 interview, Graham said that he and his wife had contributed to 19 charities that year, most of them religious in nature. The donations could easily be assumed to be several thousand dollars. They also gave away 10-15% of their income to charity.
In 1983, Billy Graham was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan.
During his lifetime, Graham appeared on Gallup Inc's Top 10 'Most Admired Man' list 61 times.
Graham has also received the Big Brother of the Year Award for his work on behalf of children, the Templeton Foundation Prize for Progress in Religion, and the Sylvanus Thayer Award.
Billy was also presented with America’s highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal in 1996. Both he and his wife Ruth received the honor for their ‘outstanding and lasting contributions to morality, racial equality, philanthropy, family and religion.’
These are just a few examples of the many accolades Billy Graham received for his work as an evangelist and humanitarian throughout his life.
Billy Graham spent most of his lifetime, especially the latter part of his life, dedicated to spreading the word of Jesus Christ. However, outside of being a religious figurehead, Graham also enjoyed spending time supporting sports teams like the Dallas Cowboys. Once an NFL team was established in his hometown, however, Graham fervently supported his home team.
During his youth, Billy had enjoyed playing golf and baseball.
The question of Christianity and hobbies often comes up due to the fact that religion feels like a tight-knit rulebook of work and no play. However, as Billy Graham himself has put it, 'God doesn't look down on you just because you enjoy activities that aren't directly related to your church (as long as they're honorable).'
Billy Graham had originally wanted to join in the war effort during World War II as an army chaplain but was prevented from doing so because of a mumps infection.
He's thought to have driven a 1966 Rolls-Royce Phantom V limousine.
Though he never specifically announced the version of the Bible he used, he was most often seen carrying a New King James Version with him.
Billy Graham was also an architect. He specialized in bridge building to connect with the secular world.
Graham also authored a number of books including 'Calling Youth To Christ' (1947), 'America's Hour Of Decision' (1951), and 'Just As I Am: The Autobiography Of Billy Graham' (1997, 2007).
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is still active under Billy's son Franklin Graham and has missions in more than 200 countries as well as radio stations and a 24-hour network for evangelical Christians called 'World Wide Pictures.' Billy Graham’s legacy will live on through his son and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Main image credit: Anthony Correia /Shutterstock
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