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Billy Graham (born William Franklin Graham, Jr. on November 7, 1918) is an American Southern Baptist evangelist who has preached around the world, reaching live audiences of 210 million people in 185 countries. He has led hundreds of thousands of people to make personal decisions to accept Christ into their lives, this being the main thrust of his ministry. Many of his sermons center on the topic "Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation". He has often advised U.S. presidents and continues to be listed as one of the "Ten Most Admired Men in the World" in Gallup Polls.
Billy Graham made a commitment to follow Jesus Christ in 1934 during a revival meeting conducted by Mordecai Ham. Graham was ordained in 1939 by a Southern Baptist church. He attended Florida Bible Institute now called Trinity College. He graduated from Wheaton College in 1943. It was during his time at Wheaton that Graham decided to take the Bible as the infallible "word of God". He also married Ruth Bell, whose parents were Christian missionary doctors in China. He and his wife have three daughters, two sons, 19 grandchildren and many great grandchildren.
Graham joined Youth for Christ after graduating from Wheaton. He travelled throughout the United States and Europe as an evangelist. Graham scheduled a series of missions in Los Angeles, California in 1949. The missions went on for 8 weeks after being originally schedule for only 3 weeks. This happened on many other of his early missions. He had missions in London, England which lasted 12 weeks, and a New York, New York mission in Madison Square Garden in 1957 which ran nightly for 16 weeks.
Rev. Graham served as the President of Northwestern College in Minnesota from 1948 to 1952. Rev. Graham founded the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in 1950 headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Association later relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina. BGEA Ministries have included:
- "Hour of Decision" a weekly radio program broadcast around the world for over 50 years
- Mission television specials which are regularly broadcast in prime time in almost every market in the U.S. and Canada
- A newspaper column, "My Answer," carried by newspapers across the United States
- "Decision" magazine, the official publication of the Association
- World Wide Pictures which has produced and distributed over 130 productions
Billy Graham has written 25 books including
- "Just As I Am,", his autobiography (1997)
- "Approaching Hoofbeats: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" (1983)
- "How to Be Born Again" (1977)
- "Angels: God's Secret Agents" (1975)
- "The Jesus Generation" (1971)
Awards and honors
Billy Graham has received the Congressional Gold Medal; the Templeton Foundation Prize for Progress in Religion; and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation Freedom Award for contributions to the cause of faith and freedom.
He has received the Big Brother of the Year Award for his work on behalf of the welfare of children. He has been cited by the George Washington Carver Memorial Institute for his contributions to race relations. He has also been recognized by the Anti-Defamation League of the B'nai B'rith and the National Conference of Christians and Jews for his efforts to foster a better understanding among all faiths.
At noon Friday, September 14, 2001 in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks, Rev. Graham led a prayer and remembrance service at Washington National Cathedral attended by Congressional leaders, top officials, President George W. Bush, and all living former Presidents except President Reagan.
In December 2001 he was presented with an honorary knighthood, Honorary Knight Commander of the order of the British Empire (KBE), for his international contribution to civic and religious life over 60 years.