Biography of Famous Preacher and Evangelical Billy Graham Part 1

About the famous American preacher and evangelist Billy Graham, biography and history of the evangelical.

BILLY GRAHAM (1918- )

He's Numero Uno . . . Mr. Christian . . . year after year on the Gallup Poll of "Most Admired Americans." He's been friend and spiritual adviser to 5 American Presidents and caller on crowned heads and Prime Ministers. He's big business, and a self-proclaimed "citizen of heaven." He's the Moses of Middle America, a media-oriented John the Baptist for the electronic age. He's the Rev. William Franklin Graham, Jr., a man the world calls Billy.

As a boy on his father's dairy farm deep in the Southern Bible Belt he was better known as "the fastest milker in Mecklenburg County"; later he was known as the best Fuller Brush salesman in all North Carolina. Billy is still the supersalesman: earnest, confident, and fiercely convinced he is selling the best product in the whole world.

The Grahams were no-nonsense Reformed Presbyterians. Their idea of a good time was a family outing to a tent revival. Mrs. Graham quietly prayed that her son would grow up to do the Lord's work. But young Billy Frank was impressed by nothing so much as baseball. Then, at age 16, a fire-breathing evangelist named Mordecai Ham passed through town, leaving a born-again Billy in his wake.

The next year Billy entered Bob Jones Bible College, but left after one semester, feeling stifled by Jones's brand of ultrafundamentalism. Resuming his studies at the Florida Bible Institute in Tampa, he tried out his 1st sermons on local congregations and earned the nickname "the preaching windmill" for all his arm-flailing efforts.

In 1939, as an ordained Baptist minister, he headed for Wheaton College in Illinois, where he won a B.A. degree in anthropology and a wife, the former Ruth McCue Bell, a missionary's daughter. Graham tried pastoring in a small town in Illinois, and later ran a complex of Bible training schools in Minneapolis.

But he was restless. He became a barnstorming evangelist with the Youth for Christ organization and got his big break in Los Angeles in 1949. Shortly after opening an 8-week tent revival he found newspaper reporters teeming through his canvas cathedral. Billy was told he had been "kissed" by William Randolph Hearst and that the autocratic newspaper baron had ordered his editors across the country to "puff Graham."

Warmed by the glow of the mass media, Billy outdid himself. In 8 weeks the wavy-haired blue-eyed country crusader claimed 3,000 converts including a local gangster, a war hero, a down-and-out former Olympics champion, and an alcoholic radio cowboy. It made terrific copy.

The Luce publications on the East Coast picked up the refrain, saying Graham heralded "a great spiritual awakening" in mid-century America. Billy's rallies became huge successes, swelled by thousands aching for a glimpse of evangelism's new rising star.

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