On Feb. 21, 2018, the world lost someone many have called “America’s pastor.” Perhaps the world’s best-known evangelist, the charismatic Billy Graham lived a life filled with faith and memorably inspiring moments.
The renowned preacher became a trusted and steadfast voice of comforting solace in times of national heartbreak and crisis. But there were certainly key moments that helped shaped the Reverend Graham’s beliefs, and his ardent evangelical style.
1. August 1949: Commits to Doubt-Free Biblical Belief
During his younger years, Graham recounted that he once retreated to the San Bernardino mountains near Los Angeles and propped his Bible against a humble tree stump. There he prayed fervently, and ultimately concluded, “Oh, God, I cannot prove certain things — but I accept this book by faith as the Word of God.”
2. 1950: Establishes the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA)
When the Reverend Graham established the BGEA in Minneapolis, he began shaping an organization that would continually focus on sharing the Christian Gospel with as many individuals as possible. The BGEA also began publishing “Decision” magazine, and introduced its weekly “Hour of Decision” radio program.
3. May through September 1957: Takes New York City by Storm
Notably, 38-year-old Graham spoke of transforming Times Square into “a great cathedral.” He went on to hold fervent crusade events over a 16-week interval — at highly visible venues including Times Square, Yankee Stadium, and Madison Square Garden.
4. September 1975: Publishes First Best-Selling Book
With his book “Angels: God’s Secret Agents,” the Reverend Graham earned a place on the New York Times’ best-seller list for 21 weeks. This title went on to sell a million copies in only 90 days — and since that time, more than 25 million copies of Graham’s books have been sold.
5. July 2, 1992: Divulges Parkinson’s Symptoms Publicly
On this date, the Reverend Graham first acknowledged publicly that he had been struggling with symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. This neurodegenerative disorder typically impacts the central nervous system — and at least in part, its effects would eventually lead Graham to undertake electronic satellite crusades seen by millions around the world.
6. November 8, 1995: Recognizes Son as Successor
“Daddy realizes he just can’t go on forever,” explained evangelist Franklin Graham when his father initially entrusted him with BGEA leadership. “No doubt,” said the gratefully proud elder Graham of his son, “God has given him the gift of evangelism.”
7. May 2, 1996: Earns Congressional Medal
The Reverend Graham and his beloved wife Ruth were the 114th recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal, recognized as the highest civilian honor bestowed by the United States Congress. The couple was honored at a U.S. Capitol dinner attended by, among others, President Bill Clinton.
8. June 24, 2005: Last Crusade Preached
By this time dependent upon a walker, the Reverend Graham nonetheless preached his 417th and final crusade over a three-day period. During this time, he encouraged nearly 250,000 attendees at New York’s Flushing Meadows Corona Park to accept and follow Jesus Christ.
9. May 31, 2007: Library Dedication
On the grounds of his boyhood home in Charlotte, N.C., an 88-year-old Graham dedicated the $27 million Billy Graham Library amidst a crowd of roughly 1,500. Former presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton were on hand to assist as Graham wryly joked, “I feel like I’ve been attending my own funeral.”
10. June 14, 2007: Mourns Wife’s Passing
After she succumbed to a long illness, the Reverend Graham attended the funeral of his cherished wife Ruth — a missionaries’ daughter, to whom he had been married for nearly 64 years. She was buried privately the following day on the Charlotte library grounds, where Graham remarked that he hoped she would save room for him in heaven.
All around the world, people continue to mourn the Reverend Graham’s passing. But fellow Christians are also heartened that he’s ultimately gone home to be with his Heavenly Father — and also his dearly treasured Ruth.
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