By Robert A. Wendel
On Tuesday, November 7, 2017 Rev. Billy Graham will hopefully celebrate his 99th birthday. Graham, best known American and television Protestant crusade evangelist of the last six and a half decades, came from humble beginnings. Voted a ‘most respected American’ 60 times since 1955, his supporter-core is middle-class conservative believers.
Raised on a North Carolina farm during the Great Depression of the 1920’s and 1930’s, “saved’ at age 15, attended Florida Bible Institute earning a B.A. from Wheaton College and graduated in 1943. He began his ministry conducting meetings as a Youth for Christ speaker and married Ruth Bell, daughter of missionary parents to China. Dr. and Mrs. Graham had five children together, all of whom are engaged in some form of Christian work.
Their son Franklin succeeded his father as president of the Billy Graham Association and Library. He also directs the outreach of Samaritan’s Purse and its Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Ministry which is supported by hundreds of congregations including many fellowships in the ABC/USA.
Since 1947 Dr. Graham has been a prophetic voice proclaiming the faith in some 185 countries with listener totals in his stadium-size gathering reaching a reported 215 million people. Many of these were also broadcast to a global television audience, the last being in New York City in 2005. His lifetime radio and television listeners and viewers is estimated at some 2.2 billion world-wide with 3.2 million “Coming forward to publicly declare faith in Jesus Christ as personal Savior.”
A Southern Baptist author of more than 30 books, interviewed by the Readers Digest at the release of his book “The Journey” in 2007, the now silver-haired minister offered these insights into achieving greater happiness:
- Make it your goal to live at peace with others.
- Treat others as you’d like them to treat you
- Guard your tongue. Use it for good instead of evil.
- Never repay evil for evil.
- Avoid revenge. Don’t be a captive of the past.
- Practice the power of forgiveness.
In a 1995 television interview, Larry King asked Dr. Graham, “How would you like to be remembered” to which the preacher replied “That I was faithful.” King then asked “What do you think of Heaven?” Graham responded, I’m looking forward to it!”