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Happy 100th Birthday, Billy Graham

Billy Graham speaks during the Billy Graham Crusade at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, N.Y., on June 25, 2005. RNS photo by John O'Boyle/The Star-Ledger

(RNS) — Famed evangelist Billy Graham, who died Feb. 21, would have celebrated the centennial of his birth on Wednesday (Nov. 7).

Here are 10 quotes from the preacher and people who knew and admired him over his 99 years of life:

“I have often said that the first thing I am going to do when I get to Heaven is to ask, ‘Why me, Lord? Why did You choose a farmboy from North Carolina to preach to so many people, to have such a wonderful team of associates, and to have a part in what You were doing in the latter half of the twentieth century — and beyond?”

— Billy Graham in the 10th anniversary edition of his 1997 autobiography “Just As I Am”


READ: Timeline of the life of Billy Graham


“That’s not true. Because I’ve lived to be my age and met so many people around the world, that just becomes second nature.”

— Billy Graham in an interview with Religion News Service in 1994 about how he is bothered “a little bit” by people who called him a name-dropper


READ: Billy Graham, America’s pre-eminent evangelist, dies at 99


Evangelist Franklin Graham with his father, Billy Graham, at the elder Graham’s final crusade in New York in 2005. Photo by Michael Falco

“My parents have been an example to me all of my life. I watched my father, for instance, and saw no inconsistencies between his private and public life. That made an impact on me. … The Billy Graham that the world has seen in public is the same Billy Graham that I saw at home.”

— Franklin Graham in his 2002 book “The Name”


READ: Billy Graham’s new home, by Franklin Graham


“Billy Graham names two reasons why ‘Just As I Am’ was chosen to be used after his messages. First, the song repeats an affirmative response, ‘O Lamb of God, I come,’ thus verbalizing what people are doing as they come forward. And second, the words give a strong biblical basis for responding to the call of Christ.”

George Beverly Shea, longtime soloist at Billy Graham crusades, in his 2004 book “How Sweet the Sound”

George Beverly Shea, left,  and evangelist Billy Graham at the 1973 crusade in Seoul, South Korea, where an estimated 1.1 million people attended the final service.  Photo courtesy of Russ Busby/The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.


READ: ‘Just As I Am’ was Billy Graham’s signature hymn


“No matter how dark and hopeless a situation may seem, never stop praying. Prayer should be an attitude of life. We cannot afford to be too busy to pray.”

— Billy Graham in his 2011 book “Nearing Home: Life, Faith and Finishing Well


READ: In sunset of life, Billy Graham reflects on growing old


“Too often we seek to excuse ourselves in our sins, but God seeks to convict us of sin and save us from it. Sin then is not a toy with which to play but a terror to be shunned.”

— Billy Graham in his 2013 book “The Reason for My Hope: Salvation


READ: EXCERPTS: Billy Graham on sin, salvation and ‘trendy religion’


“I always considered it a lost day if I did not spend time reading at least a passage in this sacred Book. Today I cannot see well enough to read, but I am thankful to have committed much of God’s Word to memory.”

— Billy Graham, on reading the Bible, in his 2015 book “Where I Am: Heaven, Eternity and Our Life Beyond


READ: Billy Graham warns of fire and brimstone in ‘final’ book


The Graham family (left to right: Gigi, Anne, Bunny (Ruth), Ruth, Billy, Franklin, Ned) at their home in Montreat, N.C., in an undated photo. Photo courtesy of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

“[E]leven years ago, when my mother went to Heaven my daddy started asking me to read him the Bible, and at first it was very intimidating, and then it became such a joy. … He was hard of hearing. So, I would sit in front of him knee to knee, and he would ask me to give him a full sixty-minute message, and he never took his eyes off my face.”

— Anne Graham Lotz in her remarks at the funeral of her father on March 2.


READ: Offstage and on, Billy Graham’s ministry was a team effort


“Billy Graham’s life modeled integrity, modesty, lifelong fidelity to one’s spouse, and humility despite worldwide acclaim.”

— From a resolution of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, at its Nov. 5-6 meeting in Greensboro, N.C.


READ: Billy Graham: evangelical media pioneer


“In the famed evangelist’s waning years, it became common for observers of the religious scene to speculate as to who would be ‘The Next Billy Graham.’ The answer is quite likely, ‘No one.’”

William Martin, in the 2018 updated edition of his book “A Prophet with Honor: The Billy Graham Story”

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.

12 Comments

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  • The Billy Graham ministry should be considered bittersweet. If, in the end, the ministry’s legacy left behind is “all Republican, all the time”, then he didn’t have a clue how to preach to his own family. I mean, when you’re in the gospel business and are against health care for poor people, against voting rights, against civil rights, against public education, against a free press, against environmentalism, and vocally FOR wealth controlling everybody, well, it’s a disjointed mess in the posthumous state.

  • Hmm….I couldn’t find any quotes from his comments in private (of course) with Tricky Dick Nixon, about Jews.

  • “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock….” The Messiah. (Matthew 7:22)

  • I suspect that the work and purpose of Billy Graham is not the same as that being put forward and practiced now by his legatees.

  • I suspect you are right about that. After Billy spent his active preaching life asking people to give their hearts to Jesus, what was supposed to be the operative effect of that? Were they (or we) supposed to become kinder, more honest, more fair-minded, more generous, more tolerant, more considerate of the entire world (God’s WHOLE “creation”)? Or were they (or we) supposed to get completely lost on Fox News, talk radio, and then decide that their (or our) REAL “evangelist” is the person and messaging of Donald Trump?

  • Billy, thank you for loving Jesus enough that you wanted to help people have a good relationship with Him, for eternity.
    They can play the he said, and shame on him for saying, politics forever, you were a man with a long life and none of us are error free.
    There is only One who is error free and you worked for Him.

  • My grandfather & great uncle both SBC preachers had absolutely no respect for BG. In their opinions he violated the SBC’s 11th Commandment to never mix religion & politics. I agreed with them on this even though we were very different in regard to theology.

  • .
    Billy Graham was a Christian in the same sense that

    John Hagee, Mike Murdock, Joel Osteen, Jimmy Sweigert, Ted Haggard, Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, Copeland, Liberty University, and Elmer Gantry are / were Christians.

    And all those evangelical leaders kissing Trump’s backside.

    If they represent fidelity to the teachings of Jesus,

    then I’m in a heap o trouble.

    .

  • Billy preached The Gospel…the real gospel and not the social gospel. Genuine, born-again Christians are unlikely to agree on every political issue. But, Billy was very true to his calling and Franklin is scriptural in supporting the current administration…we’re to pray for our leaders.

  • There is no real gospel that is “not the social gospel”. Preachers either learn and expound truth about our issues in the here and now—–or they don’t. They either align their pulpit advice with a spirit of trying to love all the neighbors—–or they don’t. They either support leaders who do likewise from the governmental pulpits—–or they are supporting something else other than the real gospel. If your preachers are captured in Trumpism, run away from them.

  • Really? And just what was the core of The Christ’s message? Kicking out the businessmen from the Temple courtyard was clearly social gospel. Telling the rich they would not get into heaven (camel passing through the eye of a needle), etc. etc. Roman soldiers who converted would go into battle without their weapons & armor to be martyred, you know that “shall not kill” commandment. The list is endless. Christianity at its core carries a social message. It is the calvinists/fundies who have stripped traditional mainstream Christianity of this message and replaced it with the gospel of wealth and jingoism turning it on its head. If Christ returned today the Southern Baptist Cult and their ilk would slam their doors in his face and call him anything but Christian.

    The brothers Berrigan were excellent examples of those who promote Christ’s message. In tRump’s AmeriKa we need many, many more like them and far, far fewer Billy & Franklin Grahams.

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