Today, Nov. 7, 2014, is the 96th birthday of the greatest evangelical preacher of the last 60 years, Rev. Billy Graham. There is perhaps no other Bible Christian pastor who has done more to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to hundreds of millions of people in the United States and around the world over the last half century – and he’s still preaching with his new film, Heaven: A New Message From Billy Graham.
William Franklin ‘Billy’ Graham Jr. was born on Nov. 7, 1918 in Charlotte, N.C. He earned a diploma in Biblical Studies from Trinity Bible College in 1940, and then earned a B.A. in Anthropology from Wheaton College in 1943. He was ordained a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention.
In 1943, he married Ruth Bell Graham, and they stayed married for 64 years until her death in 2007, at age 87. They had 5 children and, at last count, 19 grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren.
Billy Graham started preaching at rallies in the United States in the 1940s and his sermons were so powerful that eventually tens of thousands of people were attending the events. His sermons were also broadcast on radio and television. Over the decades, Graham reportedly conducted 400 preaching crusades in 185 countries on six continents.
It is estimated that Billy Graham’s preaching reached 2.2 billion people. Graham is regularly listed by Gallup as one of the most admired men – his name has been on that list 55 times.
Rev. Graham was instrumental in fighting against racial segregation. At a 1953 rally he threatened to leave a revival unless seating barriers, separating whites from blacks, were removed. He told the crowd, “We have been proud and thought we were better than any other race, any other people. Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to stumble into Hell because of our pride.”
In 1957, Graham invited Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to join him in preaching at a 16-week-long revival in New York City, where a reported 2.3 million people total gathered to hear them. Rev. Graham also gave spiritual counsel to America’s presidents, from Harry Truman to Barack Obama.
Billy Graham has written 31 books over the years – his first, Calling Youth to Christ in 1947, and his latest, The Reason for My Hope: Salvation, published in 2013. He was the first Protestant to receive an honorary degree from Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic school, in 1967, and he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1993. In 2000, he was honored with the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award.
Billy Graham lives at his home in Montreat, N.C. While he is ailing because of his age, his son Franklin Graham, also a minister, says that his father has good days and bad days and is still reading the Bible every day and praying frequently.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” says the Apostle Paul (2 Timothy 4:7).
No doubt, Reverend Graham has done the same.
Happy Birthday, Billy Graham!