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Obituary: Rev. Billy Graham

February 22 2018
Rev. William Franklin “Billy” Graham passed away the morning of Feb. 21. Born in 1918 in Charlotte, N.C., he is survived by children Anne Graham Lotz, Gigi Graham, Ned Graham, Ruth Graham, Franklin Graham and grandchildren Tullian Tchividjian, Will Graham, Jane Graham Lynch, Roy Austin Graham, Edward Bell Graham, Rachel-Ruth Lotz, Jonathan Lotz and Morrow Lotz.
Graham attended Wheaton College from 1940 to 1943 and graduated with a degree in anthropology. Before graduation, he met and married his late wife Ruth Graham, who passed in 2007. In 1943 he became the pastor at Western Spring Baptist Church in Western Springs, Ill., now also known as The Village Church. According to current senior pastor Dean Monkemeier, he “was already being sought after as a speaker” at that time and only stayed as pastor for a little over a year. In 1945, Graham became a field representative for Youth for Christ International. He later founded the magazine Christianity Today in 1956.
He is memorialized today on the Wheaton College campus as the namesake for the Billy Graham Center, which is also the home of the Billy Graham Museum.
In his 1980 dedication address, Rev. Billy Graham stated the BGC would be a “world hub of inspiration, research, preaching and training that will glorify Christ and serve every church and organization in preaching and teaching the gospel to the world.” This, Billy Graham Center Executive Director Ed Stetzer explained, “has been the BGC’s focus as we seek to train and equip, and network and resource Christ-followers, church leaders, correctional professionals, college students and church planters to carry out the Great Commission.”
Graham is best known for his extensive ministry as an evangelist for over 60 years. According to the Billy Graham Museum, his biggest crusade took place from May 30 to June 3, 1973, when an estimated 3.2 million people attended in Seoul, South Korea. His last crusade took place in 2005 and amassed over 242,000 recorded audience members.
The evangelist preached in 185 of the 195 total world-recognized countries, according to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Amassing great notoriety and trust in different nations throughout his preaching career, he was awarded a Presidential Medal of Honor in 1983, a Congressional Gold Medal in 1996, and holds an Honorary Knighthood in Britain.
He had close relationships with multiple presidents as well as Martin Luther King, Jr. In addition, he held numerous close relationships with global powers and was the only Christian leader allowed through the “Iron Curtain” to the Soviet States in 1978 to preach and fight for religious freedom from Communist leaders.
Graham also insisted that all of his rallies, crusades and worship services be integrated, even in the midst of the segregated and racially charged ‘60s. During Wheaton’s Rhythm and Praise Chapel on the morning of Graham’s passing, President Ryken remarked, “Billy Graham often said that he began to understand the race problem in the United States on the campus of Wheaton College and I think he would have appreciated what is happening here today … The Scriptures say ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Blessed are these that they may rest from their labors and their deeds will follow them.’”
To the people that knew him best, Graham was a friend, father, husband and a strong believer who inspired their personal spiritual lives. “You can read about the public side of the man, but the personal side of the man was consistent, with strong faith in his Lord and Savior,” said Bill Pollard ‘66, a friend of Graham’s. “There was never a time when I came to his office or when I came to meet him in his home where I didn’t find him with an open Bible. He was a man who preached the Word, but he was a man of the Word as well,” Pollard remembered.
Junior Nathan Kwon told the Record that, “[Graham] preached really simplistically and appealed to common people, which I think we lack today. So I think his death serves as a reminder that even simple people and ordinary people with ordinary theology and ordinary words can do great things.”
After struggling with illnesses including prostate cancer, hydrocephalus and symptoms of Parkinson’s, Graham passed of natural causes at age 99 at 7:45 on Feb. 21 in his home in Montreat, North Carolina. On Feb. 24, there will be a motorcade to the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C., where he will lie in repose from Feb. 26-27, followed by a private funeral for his family on March 2. Graham will be buried next to his wife on the grounds of the Billy Graham Library. Like his wife, Graham will be buried in a plywood coffin made by prison inmates.

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