Thursday 17 January 2019

Preacher to presidents Graham dies at 99

Preacher Bill Graham Photo: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images
Preacher Bill Graham Photo: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

Maria Smyth

US evangelist Billy Graham, who counselled presidents and preached to millions across the world from his native North Carolina to communist North Korea during his 70 years in the pulpit, died yesterday at the age of 99, a spokesman said.

He passed away at his home in Montreat, North Carolina, according to Jeremy Blume, a spokesman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Graham with with former US president Bill Clinton Photo: Davis Turner/Getty Images
Graham with with former US president Bill Clinton Photo: Davis Turner/Getty Images

According to his ministry, he preached to more people than anyone else in history, reaching hundreds of millions of people either in person or via TV and satellite links. He was famed for his style of hoisting a Bible as he declared Jesus Christ to be the only solution to humanity's problems.

Mr Graham became the de facto White House chaplain to several US presidents, most famously Richard Nixon. He also met with scores of world leaders and was the first noted evangelist to take his message behind the Iron Curtain.

At his 95th birthday celebrations in 2013 some 800 guests, including Republican politician Sarah Palin, business magnates Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump, paid tribute. The celebration featured a video of a sermon that his son Franklin said was Mr Graham's last message to the nation. Mr Graham had been working for a year on the video, which was aired on Fox News. In it, he said America was "in great need of a spiritual awakening".

In his prime Mr Graham had a thunderous, quick-burst speaking style that earned him the nickname 'God's Machine Gun'. Through his 'Crusades for Christ', Graham sowed fields of devotion across the American heartland that would become fertile ground for the growth of the religious right's conservative political movement.

His influence was fuelled by an organisation that carefully planned his religious campaigns, putting on international conferences and training seminars for evangelical leaders.

Mr Graham's mastery of the media was ground-breaking. In addition to radio and publishing, he used telephone lines, television and satellites to deliver his message to homes, churches and theatres around the world.

Seventy-seven million saw him preach in person while nearly 215 million more watched his crusades on television.

Mr Graham started meeting with presidents during the tenure of Harry Truman. He played golf with Gerald Ford, skinny-dipped in the White House pool with Lyndon B Johnson, went on holiday with George HW Bush.

Irish Independent

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