Historical Character Profile - Final Report
Billy Graham was born on a farm outside Charlotte, North Carolina; William Franklin Graham Jr. became the most famous and successful evangelist of the twentieth century. Graham preached the Christian gospel in person to more than eighty million people and reached countless millions more by radio, television, films, books, and newspaper columns. A 1943 graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois, Graham gained experience and exposure in Youth for Christ International during the mid‐1940s. A 1949 tent revival in Los Angeles first propelled him into public view. Hugely successful revivals, his Hour of Decision radio program, numerous books, and periodic telecasts brought worldwide popularity and influence during the 1950s. His revival “crusades” and international conferences fostered ecumenical cooperation, particularly among conservative Christians known as evangelicals. Christianity Today magazine, which he founded in 1956, remained the flagship publication of the evangelical movement in the early twenty‐first century. His association with presidents from Dwight D. Eisenhower to George W. Bush encouraged religious conservatives to enter the political arena, despite warnings he sounded in later years regarding the perils of such ventures. Graham's connections and unique stature enabled him to overcome many formidable barriers, seen most dramatically in a series of increasingly successful forays behind the Iron Curtain between 1978 and, after the breakup of the communist bloc, 1992. By such actions as refusing to preach to racially segregated audiences, hiring an African American as an Associate Evangelist, inviting Martin Luther King Jr. to appear at a crusade service, and calling on his audiences to espouse racial equality, Graham helped break down resistance to integration in the American South and elsewhere. Graham and his wife, Ruth, reared five children, all of whom entered some form of Christian work. In 1995, his son Franklin was named leader‐designate of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Among many accolades and prizes, Graham received the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1983) and the Congressional Gold Medal (1996). • Billy Graham was born November 7, 1918 to William Franklin Graham I (1888–1962) and Morrow Coffey (1892–1981), on a dairy farm near Charlotte, North Carolina. • Graham was converted in 1934 at age 16 during a series of revival meetings in Charlotte, which were led by evangelist Mordecai Ham. • After graduating from Sharon High School in May 1936, Graham attended Bob Jones College located in Cleveland, Tennessee, for one semester but found it too legalistic in both coursework and rules. • In 1937, Graham transferred to the Florida Bible Institute in Temple Terrace, Florida. • Graham eventually graduated from Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois with a degree in anthropology, in 1943. • On August 13, 1943, Graham married Wheaton classmate Ruth Bell. • Launching the new radio program on January 2, 1944, still called Songs in the Night, Graham recruited the baritone George Beverly Shea as his director of radio ministry. • While the radio ministry continued for many years, Graham decided to move on in early 1945, and in 1947, at age 30, he became the youngest person to serve as a sitting college president during his tenure at Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minnesota. • Graham served as the president of Northwestern College from 1948 to 1952. • In 1950, Graham founded the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association with its headquarters in Minneapolis. • Henry Luce put him on the cover of TIME in 1954.
• Christianity Today was started in 1956 with Carl F. H. Henry as its first editor • Graham paid bail money to secure the release of Martin Luther King, Jr. from jail during the 1960s civil rights movement; he invited King to join him in the pulpit at his 16-week revival in New York City in...
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