Billy Graham is an American religious and social activist, minister of the Baptist Church, Member of the largest Baptist group in the world, the Southern Baptist Convention. For many years, he has been a spiritual advisor to the Presidents of the United States.
Billy Graham was born on a farm near Charlotte, North Carolina. His parents, Morrow Coffey and William Franklin Graham, were raised at the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. In 1933, when Prohibition was repealed in the United States, his father gave him beer to drink until Billy fell asleep, which instilled in him a persistent aversion to alcohol.
According to the Billy Graham Information Center, he converted to faith in Jesus Christ in 1934 as a result of a series of sermons by the evangelist Mordecai Ham.
After graduating from Sharon High School in May 1936, Billy Graham began attending Bob Jones College (now called “Bob Jones University”), which is located in Cleveland, Tennessee. He attended for one semester but found that the College was too “legalistic” in terms of theology and requirements.
In 1937, Graham transferred to the Florida Bible Institute, which had less strict rules, but his education did not last long there either. He eventually graduated from Wheaton College, Illinois in 1943.
In 1943, Graham married his fellow Wheaton College student Ruth Bell (1920-2007), whose parents were from the Presbyterian Church in China. Ruth testified about her future husband: “He wanted to please God more than any man I have ever met in my life.”
They got married two months after they graduated from college. Ruth died on June 14, 2007 at the age of 87. For all the time they had five children – Virginia (b. 1945), Anna Graham Lotz (b. 1948), Ruth (b. 1950), Franklin Graham (b. 1952, heads the international organization “Samaritan’s Bag”) and Ned Graham (b. 1958, heads an organization that distributes Christian literature in China). The Grams also have 19 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren.
While attending Wheaton College Seminary, Billy Graham was ordained as a Southern Baptist minister in 1939 and served briefly as pastor of the Village Church in Western Springs, Illinois.
Graham planned a series of evangelistic meetings in Los Angeles in 1949. He set up a large circus tent in the park for these services. These meetings were such a success that they lasted eight weeks instead of the three originally planned. These meetings in Los Angeles made him a nationwide religious figure.
Billy Graham served as President of Northwestern College, Minnesota from 1948 to 1952. He founded the Billy Graham Evangelical Association (EABG) in 1950 with headquarters in Minneapolis. He later moved his headquarters to Charlotte, North Carolina. EABG includes:
In 1982, he was awarded the Templeton Prize.
Billy Graham died of natural causes on February 21, 2018 at his home in Montreat, North Carolina, at the age of 99.