Evangelist Billy Graham Dead at Age 99

One of the most influential figures in America of the last 100 years has passed away. Evangelist Billy Graham died at his home in Montreat, N.C. at the age of 99, according to a spokesman for the family.

Graham spent more than six decades traveling around the world leading crusades. These events occurred in large stadiums in places like New York and Los Angeles as well as in small villages in Africa, Asia, and South America. According to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), over 200 million people have attended one of these gatherings in over 185 countries. This does not include the hundreds of millions who listened to him on the radio or watched him on television.

Billy Graham was a counselor to 12 presidents during his lifetime, starting with Harry S. Truman. He was often listed as one of the ten most admired men in the world.

A Calling Leads to a Worldwide Movement

Graham’s calling came at the age of 16, after he attended revival meetings led by Evangelist Mordecai Ham. After listening to Ham’s messages for nearly two months, Graham enrolled at Bob Jones College and later transferred to the Florida Bible Institute. He was ordained in 1939.

In 1943, Graham began a series of radio programs in Illinois, where he shared his message of hope and love. Six years later, he traveled to Los Angeles where he held the first of what would be thousands of crusades. It was shortly after this that he started the BGEA.

Graham did not limit his messages solely to acceptance of the Christian faith. He also spoke against Communism, drug use, violence, and racism, refusing to visit South Africa over the country’s policy of Apartheid. In 1957, the Evangelist joined with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to preach a message of unity in New York City that was attended by over two million people.

Billy Graham was the founder of several colleges and universities across the country, including Northwestern University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and he was the first religious leader to start a national ministry dedicated to helping prisoners. His materials are still sent to tens of thousands of inmates across the country each year.

The evangelist has received several honors over his lifetime, including the George Washington Honor Medal, the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award, and the Congressional Gold Medal, and Queen Elizabeth II made him an honorary knight. He also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Failing Health

In 1992, Billy Graham had to slow down his work after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. His son, Franklin Graham, became the leader of the BGEA, but Graham continued to deliver messages and appear across the globe.

In 2005, he was forced to retire after his health began to fail. Two years later, Ruth Graham, his wife for over 64 years, passed away. By 2010, the evangelist had difficulty walking and had lost much of his ability to see and hear. He made one appearance that year, attending the re-dedication of the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C. Graham had been hospitalized twice over the last four years, and finally succumbed to his ailing health.