Introduction: Billy Graham (03:41)
Billy Graham preaches in Chicago on June 17, 1962. View footage of him meeting with politicians while others discuss his charisma and politicization of Christianity.
Religious Upbringing (05:10)
Graham was born in 1918 to Presbyterian parents who believed in God’s expectations to convert others. He attended Bob Jones College, a strict Fundamentalist institute. At 17, Graham was a Fuller Brush salesman, interested in girls; hearing Evangelist Mordecai Ham convinced him to embrace Christianity.
Fundamentalism and Graham's College Education (07:08)
Cultural and technological challenges to American Protestant culture prompted Fundamentalism. Worshipers believed the Bible was God's literal and infallible words. Graham transferred from Bob Jones College to Florida Bible Institute, where he discovered preaching. He then attended Wheaton College, meeting his wife, Ruth Bell.
Youth for Christ (05:51)
The program, part of the 1940s Evangelical movement, focused on teenagers, including entertainment elements. Graham was a full-time Evangelist, preaching at revivals around the United States and Canada. He chose to go solo in Hollywood, staying committed to Fundamentalism.
Connecting Message to Current Events (04:58)
While Graham launched his career, Communism spread through Asia and Eastern Europe. He catered to American fears and anti-Communist sentiments in sermons. William Randolph Hearst published newspaper stories on him, drawing thousands to his revivals and confirming to the preacher how he should influence Christianity.
Becoming Famous (05:08)
Graham became a star, holding massive revivals, some involving influential leaders and celebrities. He repeatedly asked President Truman for a White House invitation before receiving one. The meeting left Truman upset and believing the preacher was interested solely in fame.
Media Pioneer (09:36)
Graham saw Communism as threatening and himself as a faith salesman. The Billy Graham Evangelist Association formed in 1950, transforming revivals into business. He launched a radio program, television show, and movie studio; portrayals with his wife and family furthered his ability to make Fundamentalism a cultural influence.
Merging Church and State (10:31)
In February 1953, Graham headed the first religious rally at the Capitol Building, becoming a powerful influence on American politicians. He helped Eisenhower win Christian votes and establish the annual Prayer Breakfast; religious additions to currency and the Pledge of Allegiance followed.
London Crusade (05:45)
Graham visits England, viewing it as secular; the British press believed him too overt to gain audience. He packed Harrington Arena for weeks, becoming the most famous preacher worldwide.
New York Crusade (06:54)
In 1956, Graham’s sister and her husband initiated work on his crusade, sponsored by mainline regional denominations. In 1957, he preached at Madison Square Garden, packing the venue and extending his contract for months. Martin Luther King Jr.’s inclusion on his program isolated him from many Fundamentalists.
Graham was born into the segregated South. Becoming more racially progressive, he integrated revivals by 1953, but not facilities. King pressured him to take on Civil Rights, but he continued to work with known racists.
1960 Presidential Election (06:09)
Graham met Richard Nixon in 1952. He held meetings with Evangelicals hoping to prevent John Kennedy from gaining office, but it backfired when associate Norman Vincent Peale gave an anti-Catholic press statement. The future president’s speech at the Houston Ministerial Association about religious freedoms prompted Graham’s association.
Graham and Martin Luther King Jr. (04:44)
Graham believed that equality was important but also believed in law and order; he found King's activism disturbing. King was jailed for involvement in the Alabama integration campaign. He wrote a letter while incarcerated, calling out religious leaders for their complacency.
Pushing the Nixon Answer (11:02)
Graham became loyal to Nixon during the 1960s; they were united against protestors and civil disobedience. During an interview, Graham attempted to convert Southerners to the Republican Party. The city of Charlotte hosted Bill Graham Day on October 15, 1971.
Watergate Scandal (11:21)
Nixon presented himself as a devout Christian to Graham, who could not accept his involvement in Watergate. After presented with White House tape transcripts, Graham criticized the president. Their friendship tarnished Graham's ministry; he repaired his reputation by traveling abroad and preaching messages of Christ’s love.
Reformed Political Involvement (04:23)
Jerry Falwell mobilized millions of born-again Christians to vote for Ronald Reagan. Graham refused to participate in campaigning despite paving the way for the Religious Right. In 1982, he visited Moscow, becoming more globally mindful.
In February 2002, more Nixon tapes were released, showing Graham to be complacent with the president’s anti-Semitic views; he apologized to Rabbis, asking for forgiveness. Graham was viewed as America’s Pastor, wanting to be inclusive while enabling the extreme right; he died on February 21, 2018.
Credits: Billy Graham (01:07)
Credits: Billy Graham
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