By Staff –
Graham had been lauded for his efforts to hold integrated crusades during the Civil Rights Movement, as well as his close relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; however, he’d also been criticized for his right-wing leanings, and his condemnation of the LGTBQ community.
One thing’s for certain, the world-traveling preacher; counselor to presidents; and man behind the evangelical trend of using television to promote Christianity, grew to become a legend in the evangelical community.
According to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Graham persuaded more than 3 million people to commit their lives to Christianity throughout his lifetime, and his preaching was heard in 185 of the world’s 195 countries.
“He was probably the dominant religious leader of his era; no more than one or two popes, perhaps one or two other people, could come close to what he achieved,” William Martin, author of “A Prophet with Honor: The Billy Graham Story, told CNN.
In addition, many African-American leaders and organizations have also released the following statements regarding Graham’s passing:
“Billy Graham inherited a faith in the American South that had accommodated itself to white supremacy, but he demonstrated a willingness to change and turn toward the truth,” Rev. William Barber, head of the NAACP’s North Carolina chapter, stated. “He helped to tear down walls of segregation, not build them up. One biographer noted after the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963, Graham told fellow evangelicals: ‘We should have been leading the way to racial justice but we failed. Let’s confess it, let’s admit it, and let’s do something about it.’”
The Gospel Coalition has also noted Graham’s contribution to the Civil Rights Movement, in a piece which highlights the pastor’s close relationship with Dr. King.
“In 1955, Graham invited Martin Luther King Jr. to join him in the pulpit at his 16-week revival in New York City, where 2.3 million gathered at Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium, and Times Square to hear them” the coalition said. “In his autobiography, Graham says he and King developed a close friendship, and that he was eventually one of the few people who referred to King as “Mike,” a nickname which King asked only his closest friends to call him. In 1963, Graham posted bail for King to be released from jail during the civil rights protests in Birmingham.”
Graham was born in 1918, and he made a personal commitment to God in 1934, after hearing an evangelist preach in his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina.
He went on to graduate from the Florida Bible Institute with a bachelor’s degree in theology, then became an ordained minister in 1940.
He also earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Wheaton College, in Wheaton, Illinois, in 1943.
According to CNN, among the honors bestowed on Graham were the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, in 1983; the Congressional Gold Medal in 1996; and an honorary knighthood from Britain for his contribution to civic and religious life.
Graham’s family will hold a private prayer service this Saturday; public viewing and services will also be held in the following days, followed by a March 2 invitation-only service and burial in Charlotte at the Billy Graham Library, alongside his wife, Ruth.
Graham is survived by his five children and multiple grand- and great-grandchildren.