Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Rev Billy Graham, "America's pastor" had roots in Chicago
Starting from a tiny basement church in the western suburbs of Chicago, the Rev. Billy Graham created a ministry that spanned the globe.
The Wheaton College graduate who became the most popular, enduring and influential evangelical leader of the second half of the 20th century died Wednesday at his home in North Carolina, according to spokesman Mark DeMoss. Known as “America’s pastor,” he was the unofficial chaplain to the White House, of particular importance during the Johnson and Nixon years.
Graham, 99, had long suffered from cancer, pneumonia and other ailments.
In 70 years of spreading the gospel, Graham's message of personal deliverance through Jesus Christ was conveyed by speeches, books, magazines, radio, television and the internet. Through his trademark crusades alone he preached directly to an estimated 215 million people in 185 countries.
During three weeks in June 1962, for instance, some 800,000 people attended his Chicago Crusade; 116,000 jammed Soldier Field on a single blisteringly hot day to hear Graham speak.
It was Graham’s influence, however, not on the common believer, but on America’s leaders that most distinguished him from other evangelical figures.
He personally ministered to every president, Democrat and Republican, from Harry Truman to Barack Obama, who was the first sitting president to visit Graham at his home.
Graham baptized Dwight D. Eisenhower, whom he also urged to run for president while the general was still Supreme Allied Commander of NATO.
Graham knew Richard Nixon’s mother, Hannah, before he met the future president. They became golfing buddies; Graham spoke at Nixon’s inauguration and at his funeral.
Nixon credited Graham for his role in convincing him to try running for president a second time in 1968. Graham was also a frequent guest at the Reagan White House.
Though most closely associated with Republicans, Graham was actually a lifelong registered Democrat, and was intimate with Democratic presidents, including John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson — Graham delivered the invocation at LBJ’s inaugural in 1965.
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