Montreat, North Carolina, USA: Reverend Billy Graham died at his home in Montreat, North Carolina this morning aged 99, a spokesman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association said. Graham became one of the best-known promoters of Christianity, preaching to audiences worldwide in large arenas, beginning in London in 1954.
In a 60-year career, he is estimated to have personally preached to an estimated 210 million people.
Graham reached millions more through TV.
Graham grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, as a Presbyterian with dreams of playing professional baseball.
His conversion to the Southern Baptist faith came in 1934 at the age of 16 when he heard a traveling evangelist in his hometown. A few years later he decided to become a preacher. He was ordained a minister in 1939.
His breakthrough as an evangelist came in 1949 when a three-week tent campaign, or “crusade”, in Los Angeles was extended to eight weeks.
In 1957 he preached nightly for 16 weeks in New York’s Madison Square Garden, according to the Graham organisation.
Graham avoided the scandals which dogged some contemporary televangelists. His fiery delivery became more measured with advancing years and controversy surrounding the techniques of mass evangelism.
Graham retired to his mountain home at Montreat, N.C., in 2005 after nearly six decades on the road calling people to Christ at 417 all-out preaching and musical events from Miami to Moscow. His final New York City crusade in 2005 was sponsored by 1,400 regional churches from 82 denominations.
He took his Bible to the ends of the Earth in preaching tours he called “crusades.” Presidents called on Graham in their dark hours, and uncounted millions say he showed them the light.
“The GREAT Billy Graham is dead,” President Trump tweeted. “There was nobody like him! He will be missed by Christians and all religions. A very special man.”
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, noting Graham’s humble beginnings, said that “because he yielded himself to God, he was used to accomplish the extraordinary — forever impacting the lives of countless people.”
Graham was listed on Gallup’s annual US poll of most admired people 61 times, including in 2017, more than any other world figure.
The person with the second most appearances on the list, which began in 1946, was Ronald Reagan with 31.
It seemed an unlikely honour when Graham was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1989 but the chairman of the selection committee said: “I can’t think of anybody in the world who has used radio, television and motion pictures in a more positive way.”