Photos Of Billy Graham Through The Years Show How He Became 'America's Pastor' (2024)

Photos Of Billy Graham Through The Years Show How He Became 'America's Pastor' (1)

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Billy Graham, the charismatic evangelist who came to be known as “America’s pastor,” started his life milking cows on his parents’ farm in North Carolina.

After his death at the age of 99 on Wednesday, Christians around the country are remembering the son of a dairy farmer who grew up to become the towering figure in American evangelicalism.

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Graham was born on Nov. 7, 1918, to Reformed Presbyterian parents who raised him on their farm near Charlotte, North Carolina. His life changed in the fall of 1934, when he said he was saved during a revival meeting led by an itinerant preacher.

He soon felt that God was calling him to become a preacher. At Bible school, Graham would often close himself up in a tool shed and preach “to oil cans and lawnmowers,” according to his biographer, William C. Martin, who noted he would also preach to animals and trees while on solo canoe trips.

Graham graduated from Wheaton College in Illinois in 1943, where he received a degree in anthropology and met his future wife, Ruth. He tried leading a Baptist congregation in a Chicago suburb for a few years, but soon realized he wanted to reach a much larger audience.

He began preaching on a Chicago radio station and at Christian youth rallies. His life took a turn in 1949, when his electric personality and stage presence drew national media attention during a series of well-attended “Canvas Cathedral” rallies in Los Angeles.

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Graham’s career quickly took off after that. His meetings started to attract hundreds of thousands of people. He served as an adviser to U.S. presidents and began preaching to audiences in more than 185 countries.

Photos Of Billy Graham Through The Years Show How He Became 'America's Pastor' (2)

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But his career also drew a fair share of controversy. Graham was not a vocal and active supporter of the civil rights movement. And he condemned queer relationships throughout his life.

He also held conservative views about women. His name is tied to the “Billy Graham” rule. These were loose guidelines he reportedly gave pastors working in his ministries instructing men not to travel, meet or eat alone with women other than their wives, under the presumption that simply being alone with women in this way would lead to sexual temptation.

Graham was also sharply criticized in 2002, after the release of a 1972 audiotape conversation he had with President Richard Nixon, in which he shared anti-Semitic views about Jews. He later issued a written apology.

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To both his critics and admirers, Graham’s six decades as one of America’s best-known evangelists left an indelible mark on American society as a whole. For Christians, and particularly evangelical Christians, Graham’s death is an occasion to remember how his fiery preaching and religious convictions helped spark a spiritual revival in the hearts of thousands.

Scroll through the photos below to see glimpses of Graham’s career as an evangelist.

Photos Of Billy Graham Through The Years Show How He Became 'America's Pastor' (3)

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Future evangelist Billy Graham at six months old in this photograph with his mother, Mrs. Morrow Graham. He was born on Nov. 7, 1918, and christened William Franklin Graham, Jr.

Photos Of Billy Graham Through The Years Show How He Became 'America's Pastor' (4)

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Graham wears a cap and gown at age 17 on his graduation from Charlotte High School. Shortly before this date, Billy had embraced a charismatic, evangelical form of Christianity at a local revival meeting.

Photos Of Billy Graham Through The Years Show How He Became 'America's Pastor' (5)

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As a young Baptist evangelist, Graham preaches to a large crowd in Los Angeles, California, in 1949. The event drew thousands and helped to kickstart his career as a preacher.

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A canvas tent, seating over 6,000, was erected for Graham's revival in Los Angeles, California, in 1949.

Photos Of Billy Graham Through The Years Show How He Became 'America's Pastor' (7)

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About 4,000 students and faculty members listen to Graham at MIT on April 21, 1950.

Photos Of Billy Graham Through The Years Show How He Became 'America's Pastor' (8)

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Graham at home with his wife on March 13, 1952.

Photos Of Billy Graham Through The Years Show How He Became 'America's Pastor' (9)

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Kneeling in prayer on the White House lawn after their meeting with President Harry Truman are left to right: Jerry Beaver; Cliff Barrow; Dr. Billy Graham, and Grady Wilson. The Baptist clergymen prayed with Truman for aid in the Korean War.

Photos Of Billy Graham Through The Years Show How He Became 'America's Pastor' (10)

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Graham addresses an estimated crowd of 30,000 people at the U.S. Capitol, calling on Truman to proclaim a day of national prayer in the U.S.

Photos Of Billy Graham Through The Years Show How He Became 'America's Pastor' (11)

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Then-Vice President Richard Nixon sits with Graham, left, and National Commander Merton B. Rice, at a memorial service during the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention at Boston University on Aug. 28, 1955.

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A 35-year-old Graham with a smile upon his arrival in Southampton, England.

Photos Of Billy Graham Through The Years Show How He Became 'America's Pastor' (13)

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Graham addresses a crowd in Trafalgar Square in London.

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Crowds listen with rapt attention to a Graham sermon at Wembley Stadium in London on May 16, 1955.

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Nixon chats with Graham at a huge Yankee Stadium rally arranged by the minister to cap a six-week tour in New York. Nixon flew in from Washington, D.C., to appear beside him and lend his personal support to the campaign.

Photos Of Billy Graham Through The Years Show How He Became 'America's Pastor' (16)

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More than 30,000 people jammed Wall Street to hear Graham preach what he termed his 'greatest service' of his New York Crusade. The evangelist gave a 20-minute extemporaneous sermon from an improvised pulpit on the steps of the Federal Hall Memorial. In the foreground of the picture is the foot of the George Washington Statue. At rear is the New York Stock Exchange.

Photos Of Billy Graham Through The Years Show How He Became 'America's Pastor' (17)

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Graham raises his fist as he speaks to members of the 24th Infantry Division in Korea in February 1956.

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Graham, wearing a garland presented to him by welcomers in New Delhi, raises his hands in Indian greetings to crowds on hand for his arrival.

Photos Of Billy Graham Through The Years Show How He Became 'America's Pastor' (19)

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Graham meets former Japanese Prime Minister Tchiro Hatoyama in the latter's office.

Photos Of Billy Graham Through The Years Show How He Became 'America's Pastor' (20)

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Graham embraces his family upon his return from his 'Crusade for Christ' tour in the mid-1950s. Clockwise from left: His wife Ruth, daughter Anne, Graham, daughter Ruth, and daughter Virginia.

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In spite of the 90-degree-plus heat, 100,000 people packed Yankee Stadium to hear Graham warn that America 'is facing its gravest crisis in history.' Police reportedly turned thousands away. The Graham organization requested that planes departing from Laguardia Field avoid flying over the ball park.

Photos Of Billy Graham Through The Years Show How He Became 'America's Pastor' (22)

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Graham preaches on May 20, 1957, at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Photos Of Billy Graham Through The Years Show How He Became 'America's Pastor' (23)

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Graham and U.S. President Lyndon B Johnson talk together at the Annual Presidential Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 5, 1964.

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President Ronald Reagan presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Graham at the White House.

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Graham with his four children and wife at his home in North Carolina.

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Graham looks at some racy magazines and books in a bookstore during a stroll through New York's Times Square. "Anyone walking down Times Square can see why New York is in need of a great spiritual and moral awakening," he said.

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Graham unveils the plaque commemorating the site of his first crusade that launched his career. At the ceremonies, he preached part of the same sermon that he gave in 1949, warning that America must repent of its sins or face the judgement of God.

Photos Of Billy Graham Through The Years Show How He Became 'America's Pastor' (28)

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Graham meets privately with Texas Governor and Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush, on Nov. 5, 2000, in Jacksonville, Florida.

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Graham (second left) with his wife Ruth and the Queen, Prince Philip and the Queen Mother, when he preached at Sandringham Parish Church. The Rector of Sandringham, Rev. Gerry Murphy, is on the right.

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Graham delivers a message on Sept. 20, 1986, in Paris, France.

Photos Of Billy Graham Through The Years Show How He Became 'America's Pastor' (31)

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Graham gives the invocation at the beginning of the inauguration ceremony for Bill Clinton's second term as president.

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Graham (left) is joined by His Eminence William Cardinal Keeler, Archbishop of Baltimore (center) and Orthodox Church of America Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan Herman, during the 55th Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service at the National Cathedral in Washington on Jan. 21, 2005.

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CHRIS KEANE / Reuters

Former U.S. presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter pose with Graham and his son Franklin Graham before the Billy Graham Library Dedication on the campus of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Charlotte, North Carolina, on May 31, 2007.

Photos Of Billy Graham Through The Years Show How He Became 'America's Pastor' (34)

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President Barack Obama meets with Graham at his house in Montreat, North Carolina, in this handout photograph taken and released on April 25, 2010.

CORRECTION: A wire photo caption in a previous version of this story misstated a London venue in which Graham was preaching in 1955. It was Wembley Stadium, not Wembley Arena.

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As an enthusiast and expert in American religious history and the life of influential religious figures, including evangelical leaders, I possess comprehensive knowledge and a deep understanding of figures like Billy Graham. My expertise spans the evolution of evangelicalism, the impact of influential evangelists on American society, and the historical context surrounding their careers and societal influence.

Regarding the article discussing Billy Graham, it portrays his journey from humble beginnings as a farm boy in North Carolina to becoming a towering figure in American evangelicalism. Graham's life story encapsulates the trajectory of an influential preacher whose charisma and fervor drew massive crowds across the United States and internationally.

Key concepts and events encapsulated in the article about Billy Graham include:

  1. Early Life: Born on November 7, 1918, in North Carolina, to Reformed Presbyterian parents, Graham's upbringing on a farm near Charlotte shaped his formative years.

  2. Religious Awakening: Graham's pivotal moment occurred in 1934 during a revival meeting led by an itinerant preacher, where he experienced a profound religious awakening, leading him to pursue a career in preaching.

  3. Education and Marriage: After graduating from Wheaton College in 1943, Graham met his future wife, Ruth, and attempted to lead a Baptist congregation in Chicago before finding his calling for reaching a larger audience.

  4. Career Milestones: His career gained momentum after the well-attended "Canvas Cathedral" rallies in Los Angeles in 1949, marking the start of his rise as a prominent evangelist.

  5. Global Outreach: Graham's influence expanded as he preached in over 185 countries and advised several U.S. presidents.

  6. Controversies: Despite his widespread influence, Graham faced criticism for his conservative views on social issues such as civil rights, LGBTQ+ relationships, and women's roles. Additionally, a 1972 audiotape revealed anti-Semitic remarks, leading to subsequent apologies.

  7. Legacy: Graham's impact on American evangelicalism and his role in sparking spiritual revivals among Christians, especially evangelical Christians, is undeniable. His career spanned six decades and left an enduring mark on American society.

Throughout his life, Billy Graham's journey from a farm in North Carolina to becoming a globally recognized evangelist remains a testament to the complex interplay between faith, societal influence, and personal convictions within the broader landscape of American religious history.

Photos Of Billy Graham Through The Years Show How He Became 'America's Pastor' (2024)
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