Billy Graham has preached the gospel to more people than anyone in history. During one appearance in Seoul, South Korea alone, he addressed more than one million people. Considering his broadcast audiences, the total number who have heard him speak probably exceeds 2.5 billion people.
In a Gallup poll, he was chosen the number eight most admired person of the 20th century. In part, that approval stems from his integrity. As a Southerner during the height of racial unrest, he refused to speak in segregated auditoriums. He paid bail to release Martin Luther King, Jr. from jail, then invited him to share the pulpit during a 16-week engagement in New York City that included Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium, and Times Square as venues. Graham also wouldn’t speak in South Africa if the audience wasn’t integrated, and when finally that condition was met in 1973, he spoke out against apartheid. People realized he wasn’t a reactionary hick, but a man who lived the principles he preached.
As a young and unknown evangelist, he was clearly promoted by newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst. Hearst recognized the young preacher’s enthusiasm and youth appeal, but the publisher’s hope was that Graham would join him in speaking out against Communism. Hearst told his papers to promote the evangelist, and Graham’s crowds grew larger from that point on.
The Billy Graham Library opened in Charlotte in 2007, and is by all accounts a remarkable testament to Graham’s faith. I had the opportunity to hear him speak at a conference called Explo 72 in Dallas, and I remember the power of his delivery all these years later. If you’ve forgotten what a remarkable preacher he’s been, here’s a two-minute reminder of the man and his timeless message.