Rev. Billy Graham

"The Graham and Bell families have been instrumental in honoring Christian heritage and spreading the Gospel around the globe. We deeply appreciate Ruth Bell Graham and Billy Graham for their support of a historical center in Montreat and their vision of evangelism in the world," Richard A. Ray, Presbyterian Heritage Center Board Chairman.

Rev. Billy Graham, Nov. 7, 1918 - Feb. 21, 2018

19993 Kirkin Service in Montreat with Billy Graham preachingA resident of Montreat, North Carolina, for the past six-plus decades, William "Billy" Franklin Graham, Jr., was born in Charlotte, NC, in 1918.

Raised as a youngster in the Associate Reform Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, Billy became one of the most influential evangelists of the last half of the 20th century.

With his marriage in 1943 to Ruth Bell, daughter of Presbyterian medical missionaries to China, Billy Graham became entwined with the history of Montreat.

Early Life
Graham preaching at a 1940s youth crusadeHis family operated a dairy farm outside Charlotte.When Billy Graham was growing up, his family attended the Chalmers Memorial Associate Reformed Presbyterian (ARP) Church in Charlotte. In 1934, Billy was deeply influenced when he attended a revival by evangelist Mordecai Ham.

Graham attended Bob Jones College in Fall 1936, then located in Cleveland, Tennessee, for one semester. In 1937, he left to enroll in the Florida Bible Institute at Temple Terrace, FL, outside Tampa. After training in Florida, he then enrolled in the fully accredited Wheaton College in Illinois, and met his future wife Ruth Bell there.

Finding His Mission
Guest evangelists lecturing at the Florida Bible Institute included Gipsy Smith, Homer Rodeheaver and others. In 1939, Billy Graham was ordained as a Baptist minister at Peniel Baptist Church. He then attended and graduated from Wheaton College (1940 - 1943). He married Ruth McCue Bell, daughter of Presbyterian (PCUS) China medical missionaries L. Nelson Bell, MD, and his wife, Virginia.
Billy Graham started his first and only pastorate in 1943 and began a radio ministry in Jan. 1944, with a guest soloist George Beverly Shea. Billy left his successful pastorate and became the first full-time evangelist for Youth for Christ (1945 - 1947), conducting national and international religious rallies. In 1947, he accepted the position of President of Northwestern College in Minneapolis, while still conducting selected crusades.

Making A Mark Nationally
1949 Los Anglese CrusadeIn 1949, Graham led a crusade in Los Angeles that brought evangelistic success, national recognition and broad media coverage. After newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst instructed reporters to “Puff Graham” during this 1949 Los Angeles Crusade, national recognition was building.

More national crusades started in 1950, along with the formation of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). On Nov. 5, 1950, Billy started The Hour of Decision weekly broadcast on ABC radio network.

Billy Graham conducted evangelism campaigns throughout the states during 1950 - 1953, kicking off the first international BGEA crusade in London in 1954. He has conducted crusades in six of the seven continents — North America, South America, Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia.

Graham preached in Montreat many times, as well as speaking to various youth groups.

More information, click here for an obituary from Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Pictures - (Top right) Montreat's Kirkin of the Tartan worship service in 1993. Sponsored by the Montreat Scottish Society, the Kirkin had Billy Graham as its guest preacher.
Collection of the Presbyterian Heritage Center, Montreat, NC.

Circa late 1940s, Rev. Billy Graham preached in youth crusade, before launching his own crusades. The Los Angeles Crusade in 1949 brought national attention to Graham.
Collection of the Presbyterian Heritage Center, Montreat, NC.