- By Jared Leone, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
Evangelical leader Billy Graham, who counseled presidents and preached to millions of people worldwide, died Wednesday at 99.
How Graham got his start
Graham, the son of a North Carolina farmer, started preaching throughout the south and midwest.
He was “born again” after hearing a preacher’s service in 1934 in Charlotte, North Carolina, according to CNN.
He attended Florida Bible Institute and it was there while taking a midnight stroll in 1937 on the 18th green when he received his calling from God, Graham wrote in his biography. He was baptized Dec. 4, 1938, in Silver Lake, Florida, and ordained the following year, according to CNN.
After graduating, Graham moved to Illinois to continue his education at Wheaton College, where he met his wife, according to The New York Times.
Advisor to presidents and welcomed by world leaders
Graham advised 10 presidents starting with Harry Truman. Barack Obama was the last president Graham met with, according to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Graham was most closely linked to President Richard Nixon whom he endorsed in 1968. Years later, recordings of the two were released in which they made anti-Semitic remarks. Graham apologized, saying he did not recall making the statements.
Not only did Graham counsel American presidents, world leaders of religiously restrictive countries welcomed him.
He was invited to preach in China as well as in Pyongyang by North Korean dictator Kim Il-sung, according to the New York Times. He also visited communist countries in Eastern Europe to promote peace.
Graham’s global reach
Graham was not the first evangelical but he was able to use communication and technology to gain an unprecedented reach.
Through the use of radio, books, magazines, television and the internet Graham’s “crusades” reached more than 200 million people on almost every continent.
Graham wrote 30 books and his sermons were translated into 48 languages and sent to 185 countries by satellite, according to the New York Times.
He held a crusade in Madison Square Garden in 1957. It was so popular, it was extended from six to 16 weeks and ended with a rally with 100,000 people in Times Square. It was Graham’s longest revival meeting ever.
His final crusade was in 2005 in New York City. However, the Billy Graham Evangelical Association continues to organize them.
Graham formed the Billy Graham Evangelical Association in 1950. The group continues to organize crusades, radio and television programs and publishes the Decision magazine. The association trains thousands of evangelicals and missionaries and sends a rapid response team to help in disaster areas.
His son, Franklin Graham, who developed his own following, was tapped to lead the association in 1995, according to the New York Times.
Daughter Anne Graham Lotz and grandsons Will Graham and William Graham Tullian Tchividjian are part of the ministry.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.