Influential Evangelist Billy Graham Dies

Daniel Hautzinger
Billy Graham at one of his crusades in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1970, introducing Richard Nixon
Billy Graham at one of his "crusades" in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1970, introducing President Richard Nixon

The Rev. Billy Graham, America's most famous and wide-reaching Christian evangelist, died today at the age of 99. Graham not only reached millions of people through radio, television, and satellite broadcasts in his stadium preaching events, which he called crusades, but also became an influential friend or priest to presidents from Truman up until Obama, who visited him at his home in 2010. He offered prayers at Clinton's inauguration, often visited Reagan's White House, was a supporter of Nixon even through Watergate, and reportedly helped George W. Bush become more serious about his faith. 

Graham's career as a preacher began near Chicago. After attending two unaccredited institutions, he came to Wheaton College, where he received a degree in anthropology and met his future wife, Ruth McCue Bell. He then became pastor of First Baptist Church in the Chicago suburb of Western Springs and became host of a Chicago radio program called "Songs in the Night" that featured preaching and singing.

Over some 60 years of preaching, the Billy Graham Evangelical Association estimated that Graham reached more than 215 million people in 185 countries and territories, both in person and over broadcast. His last "crusade" was in 2005. 

WTTW broadcast a special about Graham's life in 1994, called Crusade: The Life of Billy Graham. In it, the evangelist tells how, if at all, he would like to be remembered. Additionally, one of his associates explains the four rules that Graham and his team came up with to keep their mission from being corrupted or sidelined – rules which recently received renewed attention because Vice President Mike Pence follows them, specifically the stipulation that a man never spend time alone with a woman who is not his wife. 

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