Renowned evangelist Billy Graham has died. He was 99.
Graham, known for his deeply held Christian beliefs, traveled the globe over a span of seven decades. The preacher ministered to nearly 215 million people through his “Crusades” and other public appearances, visiting more than 185 countries along the way.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, his official organization, estimates that hundreds of millions more were reached through TV, video, film and webcasts. This means that Graham likely ministered, both directly and through popular media channels, to more people than anyone else in history, according to Biography.com.
Born Nov. 7, 1918 in Charlotte, N.C., Graham grew up on a dairy farm during the Great Depression where he learned the value of hard work and dedication. His spiritual journey began to take form in 1934 when the then 15 year old accepted Jesus Christ and committed to the Christian faith after a traveling evangelist came to town and preached the gospel.
Just five years later in 1939, Graham was ordained by a church in the Southern Baptist Convention, according to his official biography.
He was then educated at Florida Bible Institute, which is now called Trinity College, and graduated with his B.A. from Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., in 1943. That same year he married Ruth Bell; the couple later had five children (Ruth Graham passed away in 2007).
It was after World War II that Graham made a name for himself preaching the Christian gospel in the U.S. and Europe. After holding his first “Crusade” in Los Angeles in 1949, he gained international fame, thus launching the many decades of ministry that continued through his death in 2018.
People instantaneously connected with the young charismatic pastor. His events were often extended for weeks longer than intended, as droves of people “found Jesus” and joined the Christian faith.
“The Los Angeles Crusade in 1949 launched Mr. Graham into international prominence. Scheduled for three weeks, the meetings were extended to more than eight weeks, with overflow crowds filling a tent erected downtown each night,” reads his official biography.
It continues, “Many of his subsequent early Crusades were similarly extended, including one in London which lasted 12 weeks, and a New York City Crusade in Madison Square Garden in 1957 which ran nightly for 16 weeks.”
Over the decades, Graham authored 32 books, culminating with his most recent “The Reason for My Hope: Salvation,” which was published last year. In 1955, he also founded Christianity Today, a wildly popular evangelical magazine.
In addition to impacting culture through TV, radio, books and magazines, Graham also served as a counselor to many American leaders, meeting with every American president since World War II.
Graham’s impressive work and unwavering faith earned him many accolades, including being selected a stunning 61 times since 1948 as one of Gallup’s “Ten Most Admired Men in the World.”
In Nov. 2013, Graham’s final sermon called “The Cross” was aired on TV and distributed via online media.
“I want to tell people about the meaning of the cross … the real cross of Christ,” a passionate Graham proclaimed in the video. ”I know that many will react to this message, but it is the truth and with all my heart, I want to leave you with the truth.”
Read more about Graham’s life here.