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Graham recalled as fearless preacher, media pioneer

(RNS) — Reaction to the death of Billy Graham came quickly after his death Wednesday (Feb. 21).

Here’s a sampling of comments, some of which have been edited for length:

President Trump, in a tweet

“The GREAT Billy Graham is dead. There was nobody like him! He will be missed by Christians and all religions. A very special man.”

Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson

“I join with millions of my fellow Christians in mourning the passing of Billy Graham. Without question, Billy was the preeminent voice of evangelical Christianity in America — an advisor to Presidents, and a spiritual guide to the multitudes who attended his crusades all over the world. Billy has been a dear friend of mine personally and I will miss him. He is now with our heavenly Father, well and happy, and joined forever with his dear wife, Ruth. I extend my profound sympathy to Franklin, to Anne Graham Lotz, and to Billy’s other children who are continuing his legacy throughout the world.”

R. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“In many ways, Billy Graham did not pioneer mass evangelism and crusade evangelism; he perfected it. What others had done on a smaller scale and infrequent regularity, he began to do in a way I do not think can be replicated or equaled. He was one of the first to recognize the importance of the media — first in radio and in print media, then with television and even film. By the end of his life, his organization was pioneering new ways to reach people with the gospel by digital and social media.

Billy Graham with Johnny and June Cash

Billy Graham with Johnny and June Cash at the Asheville, N.C., Billy Graham Crusade (date unknown). RNS file photo

The Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president, National Latino Evangelical Coalition

“Billy Graham was without question the most influential preacher of our generation. As a child I remember hearing his passionate sermons and looking up to his witness. Dr. Graham’s character, integrity, and commitment to the Gospel leave a lasting incomparable legacy. Some years ago, I was blessed enough to work on the New York City crusade with Dr. Graham and was honored to witness a man with genuine humility and unwavering grace. Our generation owes this giant of the Christian faith a debt of gratitude for paving the way for sharing the Gospel with the world with humility, graciousness, and integrity.”


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Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights

“For Catholics, Graham was more than just the titular head of the Protestant community, he was a man who inspired us. He was a man of prayer, and his deep spirituality was contagious. Moreover, his ecumenical efforts were legion.

“When Graham was at his peak, our culture was Christian-friendly, allowing him to follow a decidedly pastoral approach. Those ministers who came after him were forced to take a more aggressive public stance, owing to the advent of the culture war.”

Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council

“Billy Graham was empowered by a reverent fear of God — so much so that he overcame the seemingly insurmountable and took the gospel to people and places thought virtually impossible. He even ventured to countries most hostile to Christianity including North Korea and the Soviet Union. Dr. Graham’s deep faith in God overruled the fears of his time. He never failed to give glory to God and the power of prayer for his ministry’s success.

“I remember how easily Dr. Graham discussed current events while always relating them to God’s timeless truths. A newspaper once described his preaching style as ‘holding the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.'”

Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission

“We are fortunate to have lived in the era of Billy Graham. He was perhaps the greatest Southern Baptist in history, turning the world upside down with the gospel. He was never ashamed to confront a brave new world with the old-time gospel.

“Combining the power of a ‘the Bible says’ authority with the compassion of
a ‘Just as I Am’ invitation, he projected the mission of Christ Jesus, full of grace and truth. Behind Dr. Graham’s stately North Carolina accent, millions of people heard another voice, a northern Galilean voice calling ‘Come, follow Me.'”

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

“Today, we pray for the soul of the Rev. Billy Graham to the Lord he so dearly loved and offer our condolences to his family. Billy Graham was a preacher of God’s Word not only in his sermons, but also in the very life he lived. His faith and integrity invited countless thousands around the world into a closer relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God for the ministry of Billy Graham.”

Evangelist Alveda King, niece of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

“As a fledgling freelance journalist in the 20th century, I interviewed Dr. Graham who was in Atlanta to conduct a crusade. As he spoke, he admonished me to ‘pray without ceasing.’ As he spoke, his brilliant blue eyes were glowing with a heavenly brightness. As I naively asked how anyone could pray 24/7; he quietly responded in a reverberating voice: ‘I’m praying for you right now.’ This unforgettable experience changed my life forever.

“The lives of my family have been personally intertwined with those of Dr. Graham and his family throughout our lifetime. My ‘Uncle ML,’ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ministered with Dr. Billy in New York at Madison Square Gardens during the 1950s. Together, in living color, bridging the racial divide, they debunked the colorblind myth; revealing the mystery of Acts 16:26 — One Blood, One Human Race.”

Jerry A. Johnson, president, National Religious Broadcasters

“Billy Graham loved the Lord with all of his heart and demonstrated this through his ministry,” said Johnson. “He was a trailblazer in the use of radio, television, film, and other communications platforms to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. NRB is proud of its long partnership with the BGEA, which is today a vital part of our association. Billy Graham was and will remain a shining example for us all.”

Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas, Billy Graham’s longtime congregation

“I think of Billy Graham’s unfeigned and boundless love for people. Once, when he was preaching at First Baptist Dallas, I told him before the service that my barber and his family were attending, and I had been praying that they would all become Christians. I asked Dr. Graham if he would write them a note before the service began. He wrote a brief note on a card to my barber that said, ‘I’m praying for you tonight to become a Christian. Billy Graham.’ When Dr. Graham extended the invitation that night, my barber and his family were the first to come down the aisle.”

Richard Stearns, president of Christian humanitarian organization World Vision

“Dr. Graham played an important role in the early years of World Vision. Alongside World Vision’s founder Bob Pierce, he visited children’s homes and preached to U.S. troops in Korea, and later served as chair of the World Vision board.

“In 1950, Dr. Graham announced he was canceling an order for a new Chevrolet and instead giving the money to World Vision to help orphaned Korean children. His gift and his endorsement helped the fledgling organization to survive the early years, and grow into an agency that today has more than 40,000 staff helping serve victims of poverty and injustice in nearly 100 countries.”

Ralph Reed, founder, Faith and Freedom Coalition

“The entire world and Christendom has lost one of the great figures in its history with the passing of Billy Graham. He personally reached hundreds of millions of people with the Gospel message and generations of believers began their spiritual journey under his preaching, which was as unapologetic in its defense of the true faith as it was eloquent. A friend and advisor to twelve presidents, he understood the importance of citizenship in the Christian witness.”

William Martin, biographer of Billy Graham

“The Rev. Billy Graham was one of the most dominant Christian figures over the last 75 years. No more than one or two popes, perhaps one or two other people, came close to what he achieved.

“He was the key leader and the major spokesman of the evangelical movement during the last half of the 20th century. That movement has become one of the strongest in all of world Christianity and world religion, and he played the major role in that.”

The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

“Today, the most influential evangelist in modern history, Rev. Billy Graham, stepped into the corridors of eternity. He preached the Gospel, lived with integrity and changed the world. I will never stop being grateful for the impact he has had on my life. May his death, as in life, point all people to the cross of Jesus Christ and His glorious Gospel.”

Tim Wildmon, president of American Family Association

“I’ve been around thousands and thousands of Christians over the past three decades, and I often survey how they came to know Christ,” Wildmon said. “Billy Graham is always the No. 1 name mentioned, especially for Baby Boomers. What a great life of service to God!”

Leith Anderson, president of National Association of Evangelicals

“Billy Graham has been the best known face and voice of evangelicalism for more than half a century. With Christian graciousness, he transcended political and religious differences to faithfully proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. … Billy Graham loved God, and we loved Billy Graham. We will miss him.”

About the author

Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks, production editor and a national reporter, joined RNS in 1995. An award-winning journalist, she previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton.

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  • Sure, if by ‘fearless’ you mean somebody who gleefully sat by and listened to Richard Nixon spew bigotry and hate towards Jews, and not only didn’t correct him, but joined in.

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