Earlier this month noted Evangelist Billy Graham finally passed away and began his journey to the gates of heaven. While we’ll miss his dedication to faith and ever charming personality, Billy’s moved on to bigger and better things.
His spirit now resides beyond the pearly gates. But Billy is undoubtedly smiling down on us all, sending us his blessings to continue his work and celebrate his life.
So we’re honoring Mr. Graham’s life by celebrating him as an individual. His works spread far and wide, and there’s more to Billy than meets the eye; certainly, more than you’re aware.
Here are our fifty surprising facts about Billy Graham in honor of his contributions to modern Christianity.
A Presidential Advisor
The presidential facts about Billy Graham…
Mr. Graham served as the presidential spiritual advisor for every president starting with 33rd Harry S. Truman to 44th Barack Obama. It’s one the better-known facts about Billy Graham, but a great place to start.
Rubbing Shoulder with the Presidents
Graham was particularly close friends with Richard Nixon, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Lyndon B. Johnson.
With Johnson, in particular, he had a special relationship, often spending extended periods of time at the White House and praying with the President. Graham also visited Johnson at Camp David and his private ranch in Texas.
Late Night Swims
Surprising among our facts about Billy Graham…
After Johnson was sworn into office Graham received an invite to the White House. Sot he story goes, the pair went skinny dipping after failing to find any swimsuits.
George W. Bush had a noted drinking problem in his youth. But what most don’t know, is Billy’s involvement.
Graham met a drunk Bush Jr. at the Bush family’s compound in Maine and the two spoke about religion. Bush cites the moment as a turning point in his life.
Graham was a registered Democrat, but also supported Republican candidates, including Nixon.
God Don’t Play Politics
Despite supporting different candidates affiliated with different political parties, Graham believed god had no religion. In 2007 he said that, “We (evangelists) have to stand in the middle in order to preach to all people, right and left.”
The Clintons first taste of Graham was during a 1971 crusade in California that a young Bill Clinton attended with his then-girlfriend Hillary.
Later, Mrs. Clinton would counsel Graham during the sex scandal that rocked the White House and partial impeachment of Bill Clinton.
Bill Clinton not only took his future wife to see Graham speak but also attended crusades himself in 1959, 1971, 1989 and 2005. Clinton is on record saying Graham prays not with you, but for you.
The First Prayer
Harry Truman became the first President to pray with Billy Graham in 1950. Reportedly, Truman became upset with Graham the next day after learning Graham had discussed their conversation with reporters (Graham contended he kept all Presidential conversations private).
Honored by the President
In 1983 Graham received the Presidential medal of freedom from then-President Ronald Regan. Regan called Graham, “One of the most inspirational spiritual leaders of the Twentieth Century.”
Billy had a premonition he described as “a burden” about Kennedy visiting Texas that fateful day. So strong were his feelings that he actually tried to warn Kennedy not to go, but his message was too late.
Another better-known fact about Graham was his dedication to the civil rights movement. While his crusades were originally segregated, Graham quickly saw the error of his ways and started championing integration during the early 1950s.
Integration in Tennessee
This little known of the facts about Billy Graham is particularly uplifting…
Graham decided that a rope segregating his audience was wrong and promptly tore it down. He recounts telling ushers that they could leave the barrier down or “you can go on and have the revival without me.”
Integrating His Crusades
In 57′ Graham allowed black ministers Thomas Kilgore and Gardner C. Taylor onto the executive committee and also invited Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to the pulpit of his 16-week revival in New York City.
The event drew 2.3 million people at Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium, and Times Square to hear the two men preach.
After the New York event, King and Graham’s friendship grew. By 1960, the two traveled together to the Tenth Baptist World Congress of the Baptist World Alliance.
In 1963, Graham posted bail for King after one of his demonstration arrests in Birmingham, Alabama.
Standing Up to the Ku Klux Klan
Graham told KKK members that racial integration was important for religion to grow. He spoke of segregation saying, “There is no scriptural basis for segregation…it touches my heart when I see whites standing shoulder to shoulder with blacks at the cross.”
The Klan Retaliates
Graham drew the ire of the Klan after his integrated crusade in Birmingham. They went around and destroyed Graham centric signs, to the point where Graham need protection from the state police.
Not a White Man’s Religion
Of our facts about Billy Graham, this stands out because…
Graham famously preached that Christianity was for people of all races. He stated during the Civil Rights Movement, ” Jesus was not a white man; He was not a black man. He came from that part of the world that touches Africa and Asia and Europe. Christianity is not a white man’s religion.”
Our list of personal life facts about Billy Graham…
For such a busy man, Graham was still able to have a personal life. He married, had children, and managed to balance his family while still bringing good into the world.
Billy was the son of a North Carolina dairy farmer. Coming from modest roots he dreamed of playing professional baseball.
Graham made a personal commitment to Christ at age 15 after attending a tent revival featuring evangelist Mordecai Ham.
A Loving Marriage
Graham met his future wife Ruth at Wheaton College. The daughter of Christian missionaries in China, the two were a perfect match. In 1943, Ruth and Billy married.
Children of the Faith
Billy and Ruth had five children together, all of whom are now somehow involved with the faith.
- Virginia Leftwich (Gigi) Graham – Works as an inspirational speaker and author
- Ruth Graham – Founder of Ruth Graham and Friends
- Anne Graham Lotz – Head of AnGel Ministries
- Franklin Graham – President and CEO of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
- Nelson Edman Graham – Pastor of East Gate Ministries International
Graham also had 19 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren at the time of his death.
The Greatest Christian He Ever Knew
Billy credits his wife Ruth as the greatest influence on his ministry. He called her, “the greatest Christian he ever knew.”
Billy’s ministry began in 1947, and in the following years, he conducted over 400 crusades preaching the word of Christ. A truly prolific, worldly preacher.
His First Crusade
Graham hosted his first crusade from September 13-21, 1947 at the Civic Auditorium in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The event drew 6,000 people to watch the 28-year old.
The Famous Crusade
Graham’s most famous crusade took place in New York City, held at Madison Square Garden. The event ran for an astounding 16 weeks.
Billy’s real breakthrough came in 1949 at a three-week tent crusade in Los Angeles that was subsequently extended to eight weeks.
The Last Crusade
Graham held his last crusade in 2005 at the age of 86. Held at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, New York, the event drew more than 230,000 people.
An Internation Man
Facts about Billy Graham, the international man…
Billy traveled the world spreading the word of God across 185 different countries. His time spent abroad saw his word spread to both the rich and poor, the haves and have-nots.
Billy put on three worldwide conferences in his time, in 1983, 1986 and 2000. Each drew millions, and in 2000 attracted over 157 nations.
Graham liked to call people forward during his services for private counseling and prayer. At larger crusades, many people came forward.
At a 1992 Moscow event, one-fourth of the 155,000 people in attendance went forward to heed Graham’s call.
Breaking the Iron Curtain
Graham’s noted as the first evangelist of any recognizance to preach beyond the communist iron curtain. He started crusading in Hungary in 1977 and would go onto preach in the Soviet Union four different times.
A Queens Knight
Graham received one of England’s highest honors in 2001, receiving a knighthood from Sir Christopher Meyer at the Washington D.C. based British Embassy.
The pop culture facts about Billy Graham…
Graham was present in every facet of American life. More so than any other man of God, Graham became part of the American culture. He was “inside” American homes through the radio, TV, phone, and even newspapers.
In 1949 Graham received an offer to host a radio program but only agreed on the condition that he could raise $25,000 in one night to start buying airtime. Graham raised the funds during a crusade in Portland, Oregon.
Thus, the radio show “Hour of Decision” was born. Today, the program still airs on hundreds of stations.
A Prolific Author
Billy authored 33 books, the most famous being his 1997 best selling autobiography titled, Just As I Am.
TV Call Ins
In 1981 The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association formed the TV Telephone Ministry for callers who were watching the Billy Graham Classics TV programs.
Phone Call Ins
The original phone lines existed to counsel people dealing with drugs, alcohol, and, depression, among other things. Today, the lines have grown to 41 phone centers hosting 530 phones and over 2,000 volunteers.
Hall of Fame
In 1999 Graham earned the distinction of being the first non-musician inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
Such was his worldwide impact that Graham frequently ranked in Gallup’s poll of the “10 Most Admired Men in the World.” He never won the top spot but made the list an astounding 61 times.
The Walk of Fame
Though unexpectedly, Graham received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1989.
Bonus Fun Facts About Billy Graham
Graham did so much for this world that there’s no way to fit all of our facts about Billy Graham into neat boxes. So, here’s a list of all the interesting extras.
Graham worried that people might have less than pure thoughts about his travels and subsequent lost-distance marriage. So, in 1948 Graham and his lieutenants agreed to the Modesto Manifesto, promising to never be alone in a room with a woman other than their wives.
In additional to infidelity, the Modesto Manifesto also bound the men to keep honest financial records.
The Library Dedication
Graham saw a library dedicated in his honor in Charlotte, North Carolina. On May 31, 2007, The Billy Graham Library and Museum was christened in the presence of former Presidents George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter.
People interpret the Bible in many different ways, and Graham was no exception. Though deeply religious as he was, Graham did not consider himself a strict interpreter of the Bible and instead preached conservative but not fundamentalist, Christianity.
Rounding out our facts about Billy Graham…
Even in death, Graham continues to accomplish great things. His legacy and impact will linger forever. Rounding out our facts about Billy Graham are interesting things and accomplishments he’s made, even in death.
Graham’s Funeral Songs
Graham requested “a lot of music” for his funeral. Instructing Billy Graham Evangelistic Association choir director Tom Bledsoe, ” I want the people to sing.”
His list of funeral songs are as follows:
- “Until Then” (Stuart Hamblen, 1958), performed by musical artist Linda McCrary-Fisher
- “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” (Edward Perronet, 1779), congregational singing by Tom Bledsoe
- “Above All” (Lenny LeBlanc and Paul Baloche, 1999), performed by Michael W. Smith
- “Because He Lives” (Bill and Gloria Gaither, 1970), performed by the Gaither Vocal Band
- “To God Be the Glory” (Fanny Crosby/William Howard Doane, 1875), congregational singing led by Tom Bledsoe
- “Amazing Grace,” bagpipe escort led by Pipe Major William Boetticher
Graham, one the world’s most influential and important evangelists, lies buried in a $200 wooden casket made by prisoners at the Louisiana State Penitentiary.
The idea came thanks to Franklin Graham’s admiration for the prisoner’s handiwork and the casket’s simple and natural beauty.
The U.S. Capitol
Graham was the first pastor to even lie in honor at the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. An honor reserved for only the most influential people in the United States.
Facts About Billy Graham
Billy Graham lived a blessed life, touching the lives of millions of people around the world. His contributions will live on with us all, for the rest of our own lives.
Did you know these facts about Billy Graham?
We hope this list gives you more insight into the life of the noted evangelist and inspires your own inner faith.
You may also enjoy these 40 powerful quotes from Rev. Billy Graham.
If we missed anything please feel free to post them below.