GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Reverend Billy Graham has died at the age of 99.
William Franklin Graham was born Nov. 7, 1918, near Charlotte, N.C."Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature." Mark 16:15
For decades, Graham lived by a single creed. His purpose in life was to help people find a personal relationship with God.
Billy Graham has preached the Gospel to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history
Graham delivered his message to 215 million people in 185 countries – countless more heard his words through radio and television. He was a mainstay on Gallup’s list of the most admired people in the world.
Growing Up In North Carolina
Graham grew up in the country’s formative years of the Depression. He also grew up on a dairy farm in Charlotte. He attended a revival at the age of 15 and credits his mission in ministry to that meeting.
He attended Bob Jones College which is now Bob Jones University and Florida Bible Institute (now Trinity College of Florida) before transferring to Wheaton College in Illinois.
At Wheaton, he met a young woman named Ruth Bell. She grew up in China, where her father was a medical missionary. They married Aug. 13, 1943.
Graham took over a radio show called “Songs in the Night.” Soon after that, he became the vice president of Youth for Christ, which allowed him to travel the country.
He gained international recognition in 1949 with a tent crusade in Los Angeles. It was only scheduled to last three weeks, but it lasted for eight weeks. Crowds overflowed each night – his influence grew as fast as his message.
"Millions are searching for God through religion and they're not finding it. You have got to know Christ for yourself. When you come to known Christ for yourself, there's a peace and a fulfillment and life takes on a purpose and there's a sense of forgiveness for your sins,” Graham once preached to a crowd.
Over time, Graham became one of the first people to understand the power of new technology like radio, television and eventually the Internet.
By embracing new ways to get his message out, Graham was able to reach people all over the world.
In 1950, Graham founded the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
Keeping God First Graham continued to seek God first daily, and with that he wanted Him to remain number one, as his fame grew larger every year.
However, Graham refused to think of himself as a celebrity.
"I despise all this attention on me. I wish we could publicize the meetings in some way in which my name were not used. I'm not trying to bring people to myself, nor am I trying to interest people in me,” Graham said in an interview.
Generations of people grew up with Graham, whether they saw him in person, read his books or watched him on TV.
Graham's Visits To Greensboro
Graham preached in Greensboro in 1951. There wasn’t a building big enough for the crowd they expected, so crews put up temporary buildings on Lee Street that held 10,000 people. But even that proved to be too small.
During one of his Greensboro services, he struck a timeless chord: the breakdown of the American home as the biggest threat to the country.
Counseling U.S. Presidents
His words and his presence made him a trusted friend and counselor to many U.S. presidents and heads of states. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal, two of the country’s highest civilian honors.
Most Admired List
Graham was regularly listed by the Gallup organization as one of the “Ten Most Admired Men in the World.” He was a dominant figure in the poll, appearing since 1949.
He made a 59th appearance and 53rd consecutive appearance in 2015 in his nineties.
He also appeared on the covers of Time, Newsweek, Life, U.S. News and World Report, Parade and numerous of other magazines.
Living With Parkinson’s Disease
In 1992 he told the world that for three years he had Parkinson’s disease. Graham went to the hospital multiple times over the years for declining health. The disease slowed the aging minister, but never quieted his cause.
Graham packed Charlotte’s Ericsson Stadium – now Bank of America Stadium – in 1996 for his last Carolina crusade.
Billy Graham Library
The Billy Graham Library opened in 2007, in Charlotte. Graham was reluctant to build it. Even though it has his name, he emphasized it honors Christ.
"This man is undoubtedly like a modern Abraham or Moses for this era in time," said William Prater, while visiting Graham Library.
His wife, Ruth, died two weeks after the library opened.
The Library is a 40,000-square-foot experience that allows you to discovery Graham’s life and legacy. It shows Graham’s humble farm upbringing. The barn-shaped building is just miles away from where Graham grew up. The ‘Journey of Faith’ tour lasts about an hour and a half. You can also reflect in the Memorial Prayer Garden. It sits beside the burial sites for Ruth Bell Graham.
It’s open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. It’s located at 4330 Westmont Drive in Charlotte.
Billy Graham Books
Graham wrote 33 books with many becoming top sellers. His autobiography “Just As I Am,” was published in 1997. The book received a “triple crown,” appearing on the three top bestseller lists in one week. Graham’s book titled “How To Be Born Again” written in 1977 had the largest first printing in publishing history at the time with 800,000 copies. His other work, titled “Angels: God’s Secret Agents” in 1975 sold one million copies within 90 days; and “The Jesus Generation” in 1971 sold 200,000 copies in the first two weeks.
Graham’s Last Written Work
Graham’s last written work was titled, “Where I Am: Heaven, Eternity, and Our Life Beyond.” He wrote the book in his nineties. It was published in 2015.
When asked, “Where is Heaven?” Mr. Graham wisely replied, “Heaven is where Jesus Christ is, and I’m going to Him soon.”
Graham Celebrates 95
On Nov. 7, 2013, hundreds of people gathered in Asheville to celebrate Graham’s 95th birthday.
Among the attendees were N.C. Governor McCrory, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and Donald Trump.
He addressed the crowd through a half-hour video called, “My Hope America.” Graham’s son, Franklin, said the video is Billy’s last message to the nation.
Just after his 95th birthday, Graham proclaimed with resolve, “When I die, tell others that I’ve gone to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ—that’s where I am.”
Graham Legacy Lives On
Graham leaves behind three daughters and two sons and 19 grandchildren. Graham lived out the rest of his life in his home in the mountains of North Carolina.
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