MONTREAT, N.C. (AP) – The Rev. Billy Graham, counselor to presidents and the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history, has died at age 99.
Spokesman Mark DeMoss tell The Associated Press that Graham died Wednesday morning at his home in Montreat, North Carolina.
He had been treated in recent years for cancer, pneumonia and other ailments. His wife, Ruth, died in 2007. Graham reached more than 200 million through his appearances and millions more through his pioneering use of television and radio.
Unlike many traditional evangelists, he abandoned narrow fundamentalism to engage broader society. His message and service to U.S. presidents from Dwight Eisenhower to George W. Bush earned him the nickname “America’s Pastor.” In 1995 his Evangelistic Association designated his son William Franklin Graham III as the ministry’s leader.
NAME – William Franklin “Billy” Graham Jr.
BIRTH – Nov. 7, 1918, near Charlotte, North Carolina
EDUCATION – Bachelor of theology, Florida Bible Institute, 1940; bachelor of arts in anthropology, Wheaton College, Ill., 1943; numerous honorary doctorates.
CAREER – Baptist pastor in Western Springs, Ill., 1943-45. Field representative with Youth for Christ, 1945-49. From 1947 on ran his own campaigns, sponsored after 1950 by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, becoming history’s most-traveled Christian evangelist and speaking in person to more than 210 million people in 185 countries and territories. Multi-media innovator and a key leader in numerous evangelical Protestant organizations and meetings.
HONORS – The $1 million Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion (1982), Presidential Medal of Freedom (1983), Congressional Gold Medal (1996), honorary British knighthood (2001).
WRITINGS – Countless sermons and speeches, daily newspaper columns, 32 books including a best-selling 1997 autobiography “Just As I Am.”
FAMILY – Married Ruth McCue Bell in 1943 (she died in 2007). Children: Virginia (“Gigi”), Anne, Ruth, William Franklin Graham III (“Franklin,” his father’s successor as B.G.E.A. leader), Nelson (“Ned”).
QUOTE – “My one purpose in life is to help people find a personal relationship with God, which, I believe, comes through knowing Christ.”