Breaking Down Barriers
Preaching in Johannesburg in 1973, Graham said, “Christ belongs to all people. He belongs to the whole world.…I reject any creed based on hate…Christianity is not a white man’s religion, and don’t let anybody ever tell you that it’s white or black.”
Graham spoke to people of all ethnicities, creeds and backgrounds. Early in his career, he denounced racism when desegregation was not popular. Before the U.S. Supreme Court banned discrimination on a racial basis, Graham held desegregated Crusades, even in the Deep South. He declined invitations to speak in South Africa for 20 years, choosing instead to wait until the meetings could be integrated. Integration occurred in 1973, and only then did Graham make the trip to South Africa.
A 1977 trip to communist-led Hungary opened doors for Graham to conduct preaching missions in virtually every country of the former Eastern Bloc (including the Soviet Union), as well as China and North Korea.
Graham authored 34 books, including his memoir, Just As I Am (Harper Collins, 1997), which remained on The New York Times best-seller list for 18 weeks.
In 1996, Graham and his wife, Ruth, received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest award Congress can bestow on a private citizen. He was also listed by Gallup as one of the “Ten Most Admired Men” 61 times—including 55 consecutive years (except 1976, when the question was not asked). Graham was cited by the George Washington Carver Memorial Institute for his contributions to race relations and by the Anti-Defamation League of the B’nai B’rith.
Throughout his life, Graham was faithful to his calling, which will be captured in the inscription to be placed on his grave marker: Preacher of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“There were a few times when I thought I was dying, and I saw my whole life come before me…” said Graham at his Cincinnati Crusade on June 24, 2002. “I didn’t say to the Lord, ‘I’m a preacher, and I’ve preached to many people.’ I said, ‘Oh Lord, I’m a sinner, and I still need Your forgiveness. I still need the cross.’ And I asked the Lord to give me peace in my heart, and He did—a wonderful peace that hasn’t left me.”
Billy Graham is survived by his sister Jean Ford; daughters Gigi, Anne and Ruth; sons Franklin and Ned; 19 grandchildren; and numerous great-grandchildren. His wife, Ruth, died June 14, 2007, at age 87, and is buried at the Billy Graham Library. A private funeral service is planned at the Billy Graham Library, on a date to be announced. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to the ongoing ministry of evangelism at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, online at BillyGraham.orgor via mail, sent to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 1 Billy Graham Parkway, Charlotte, NC 28201. Notes of remembrance can be posted at BillyGraham.org