George W. Bush called him "America's Pastor." Time magazine in 1999 called him "the Pope of Protestant America." Billy Graham was the closest thing America ever had to a national spiritual counselor — over his long career he preached the gospel in person to about 215 million people in 185 countries.
One crowd in Seoul, South Korea, in 1973 was estimated at more than 1.12 million strong. The sermons he preached during his 1990 Hong Kong crusade were beamed by satellite to 103 million people in 33 countries each night for five nights.
And his largest American gathering was 250,000 during a one-day 1991 rally in New York City's Central Park.
Graham officially retired in 2005, but occasionally preached to huge audiences through 2009. He knew a dozen U.S. presidents and leaders of every sort of organization. He was perhaps the greatest religious figure of the past century.
1. High School Graduation, 1936
In the photo above, William "Billy" Graham is 17 on his graduation day from Charlotte High School in May 1936. Earlier, in the fall of 1934 at age 15, Graham made a personal commitment to Christ at a local revival meeting hosted by traveling evangelist Mordecai Ham. Graham was ordained a Southern Baptist minister in 1939.
2. An Era Begins: Los Angeles, 1949
Although the first Billy Graham Crusade was held Sept. 13-21, 1947, in the Civic Auditorium in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and attended by 6,000 people, the tremendous six-decades-long public phenomenon that was the iconic Rev. Billy Graham really began on Sept. 25, 1949, in a huge tent at Washington Boulevard and Hill Street in Los Angeles. There, the 30-year-old Southern Baptist preacher launched his Greater Los Angeles Billy Graham Crusade at the Canvas Cathedral with the Steeple of Light.
Scheduled for three weeks, the revival got an unexpected boost after newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst supposedly attended one evening, in disguise and in a wheelchair, accompanied by his mistress, Marion Davies. Hearst, admiring Graham's anti-communist fervor, sent a telegram to every editor in his newspaper chain reading simply, "Puff Graham." They did. The crusade was extended another five weeks. Graham preached to 350,000 people in total; 3,000 of them came forward to receive Christ.
The upper trio of photos shows Graham on Nov. 1, 1949, in Los Angeles, preaching to a crowd of 10,000. Below them is a recreation of the 1949 Los Angeles Crusade in the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina.
3. Graham's Devoted Wife, Ruth
Above right: Four days before his March 16, 1952, preaching engagement at London's Royal Albert Hall, Graham poses with his wife Ruth as they pore over a Bible in their room at London's Howard Hotel. Above left: Billy and Ruth take a stroll in Paris after his arrival for a five-day crusade, June 4, 1955.
Ruth McCue Bell was born June 10, 1920, in Huai'an, China, to Presbyterian medical missionaries. After spending her first 17 years in China, she attended Wheaton College in Illinois, where she met and married fellow student Graham two months after graduation on Aug. 13, 1943. She was able to match her husband's ability to quote biblical verse, and she bore him five children. They were married for nearly 64 years until her death in 2007.
4. Truman Told Graham, 'I live by the Sermon on the Mount'
In 1950, Rep. John W. McCormack, D-Mass., called Graham and asked, "Would you like to meet the president?" Accompanied by three colleagues, Graham spoke with President Harry S. Truman on July 14, 1950. Truman told him he lived by the Sermon on the Mount. The two then prayed together.
In the upper photo, Graham, second from right, having finished his half-hour visit with Truman, kneeled in prayer on the White House lawn with three friends (from left, Jerry Beavan, Clifford Barrows, Graham, and Grady Wilson). They asked for divine guidance to aid Truman in his handling of the Korean crisis.
In the lower photo, Graham paid a 20-minute call to the former president at Truman's home in Independence, Missouri, on Sept. 13, 1967.
5. Kennedy: A Premonition of Tragedy
In the upper photo, a famous foursome poses outside the Kennedy oceanfront home prior to riding off in JFK's white Lincoln convertible to the golf course in Palm Beach, Florida, on Jan. 16, 1961. From left are President-elect John F. Kennedy, Graham, Sen. George Smathers, D-Fla., and future Wisconsin Gov. William Reynolds. Graham had a lifelong passion for golf.
In the lower photo, President Kennedy and others appear at the annual Presidential Prayer Breakfast, now called the National Prayer Breakfast, in a Washington hotel on Feb. 9, 1961. From left are Graham, Kennedy, Sen. Frank Carlson, R-Kan., and Judge Boyd Leedom of Washington, D.C., president of the International Christian Leadership Conference, the sponsoring organization.
Graham later claimed that toward the second week of November 1963, he had a strange, disturbing feeling about Kennedy's upcoming visit to Texas, and attempted to get a message to him to cancel the trip, but to no avail.
6. Johnson Thought Graham Should Be President
In the upper photo, President Lyndon B. Johnson stands in a White House corridor on July 17, 1965, with weekend guests: author John Steinbeck, left, and evangelist Graham. Graham spent at least 20 nights at the White House during Johnson's presidency.
In the lower photo, Johnson chats with Graham on the speaker's platform shortly before the evangelist spoke at Texas Stadium in Irving on Sept. 18, 1971.
According to biographer Marshall Frady, during an overnight visit to Camp David, Johnson said to Graham, "Billy, you know, you're the man to become president of the United States. You're the only one who could bring 'em all together. If you ever decide to run, I'll be your manager." Graham said he took it as a "half joke."
7. Nixon Became a Personal Friend in 1950
In the upper photo, taken Aug. 30, 1956, then-Vice President Richard M. Nixon, right, stands with Graham as pharmaceutical businessman and philanthropist Elmer Bobst sets the ball for a round of golf at the Spring Lake, N.J., Golf and Country Club. On Jan. 20, 1969, Graham would give the prayer at the inauguration of Richard Nixon in Washington.
Center, Graham and Nixon wave to a crowd of 12,500 at ceremonies honoring Graham in Charlotte, N.C., on Oct. 16, 1971.
In the lower photo, Graham chats with Nixon outside the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace on June 25, 1993, in Yorba Linda, Calif. The former president had just accompanied the casket of his wife, Pat Nixon, into the library. The next day, Mrs. Nixon's funeral was held at the library with Graham conducting the services. In April of the following year, Graham presided over the funeral ceremonies of Richard Nixon himself.
8. The Reagan Years
Upper photo: Graham, center, chats with President Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan at the White House on July 18, 1981, during a social call.
Center, Reagan presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the U.S. government's highest civilian award — to Graham at a White House ceremony on Feb. 23, 1983.
Below, at the May 4, 1987, opening ceremonies of the American Newspaper Publisher's Association annual convention, standing for the National Anthem on New York's Ellis Island are, from left: Alvah Chapman, CEO of Knight Ridder; David Laventhal, president of the Times-Mirror Co.; Reagan; Graham; and Katharine Graham (no relation), chairwoman of the Washington Post Co.
9. With Pope John Paul II, 1990
Graham and Pope John Paul II met privately for 30 minutes in January 1990, during which time Graham presented the pontiff with a handsome homemade quilt from the North Carolina mountains near his home. This capped three days of meetings with Vatican officials. During their second meeting together, the two men discussed a variety of topics, including the state of the church around the world — particularly in Eastern Europe and Latin America.
10. Bill Clinton Attended a Graham Crusade at Age 13
In the upper photo, then-President Bill Clinton embraces Graham on Capitol Hill on Jan. 20, 1997, during an inaugural luncheon after the president was sworn in for a second term.
The image below shows the former president speaking alongside Graham on the second night of Graham's final crusade, the Greater New York Billy Graham Crusade, on June 25, 2005, at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens. Graham's final crusade was attended by a reported 250,000 people over three days.
At age 13, Clinton had attended a Graham crusade in Little Rock, Arkansas.
11. George W. Bush: 'He planted a mustard seed in my soul'
In a Jacksonville, Florida, hotel suite on Nov. 5, 2000, two days before the U.S. general election, then-Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush and his wife Laura had a private meeting with Graham. The trio then emerged and stood for photos (upper image) as Graham announced his support for the Bush ticket.
In the lower photo, Bush stands with Graham at a book signing at the Billy Graham Library on Monday, Dec. 20, 2010.
In his autobiography, Bush credits Graham for helping him with his personal re-embrace of Christianity in 1985: "Reverend Graham planted a mustard seed in my soul, a seed that grew over the next year. He led me to the path, and I began walking. And it was the beginning of a change in my life."
12. Donald Trump: 'There's Never Been Anybody Like Billy'
President Donald Trump opened up about his special relationship with the Rev. Billy Graham, which began as a child when his parents would take him to the famous pastor's religious crusades, he told Newsmax TV's John Bachman in a 2013 interview.
"My father used to really love going to see Billy Graham in action because there's very few people who could compete with Billy Graham. It was so many years ago, but my parents really loved going," Trump said.
Trump and other notable personalities attended Graham's 95th birthday celebration on Nov. 7, 2013, at Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina, near his home. Top, Billy Graham sits in the midst of 900 admirers gathered to celebrate.
In the lower tier of photos, other celebrities can be seen arriving at the Graham celebration. From left: North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her husband Todd, contemporary Christian musician Michael W. Smith, and country and bluegrass recording artist Ricky Skaggs.
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