A visit to the Billy Graham Library is a great way to learn more about the American Christian evangelist, now in his 90s. William Franklin “Billy” Graham Jr., born in 1918, grew up on a family dairy farm near Charlotte, N.C., and was raised in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. In 1934, at 16, Graham turned from his Reformed Presbyterian roots after he heard Independent Baptist Evangelist Mordecai Ham speak. Ordained as a Southern Baptist minister, Graham initially wanted to become a chaplain in the armed forces but he contracted mumps and was unable to serve. When he recovered, he was hired as an evangelist for the new Youth for Christ International (YFCI). Graham traveled throughout both the United States and Europe as an YFCI evangelist, according to Wikipedia.
The first Billy Graham Crusade was held in September 1947, and since that time, Graham conducted more than 400 crusades in 185 countries and territories on six continents. He became a national figure and rose to celebrity status in 1949 with the national media support of newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst and magazine magnate Henry Luce. Graham’s sermons were broadcast on radio and television, some still being re-broadcast today. Eventually, he became involved in the Civil Rights movement. Even though many of his early crusades were segregated, Graham later refused to speak in some segregated auditoriums. In 1957, he invited the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to join him in the pulpit at a 16-week revival in New York City, where 2.3 million gathered at Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium and Times Square to hear them. Providing his support for the Civil Rights cause, Graham posted bail for King in his 1963 protests in Birmingham.
The Billy Graham Library is built on the same property as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, off the Billy Graham Parkway in Charlotte, N.C. The library is organized around the themes of “The Man,” “The Ministry,” “The Message,” and “The Mission”. The library complex includes Billy Graham’s childhood home, located about three miles away from the actual library. Graham’s home has been restored and is filled with family photos and personal family items.
Lidia Brown is an intern with Women of the ELCA.
Photo by bsoist. Used with permission.