The Untold Truth Of Billy Graham

The Reverend Billy Graham was one of America's most respected and beloved Christian evangelists for decades. Over the course of 60 years, he preached to a stunning 210 million people around the globe and held an impressive 417 crusades. While many may think they know Graham's story well, there are lesser-known truths about this iconic preacher. 

Vice President Mike Pence follows the 'Billy Graham Rule'

In the late 1940s, the reverend and his team created a set of rules, known as the "Modesto Manifesto," to safeguard against scandal and controversy while traveling the country to preach. One of the four rules was to never be alone with a woman who is not your wife. That particular guideline became known as the "Billy Graham Rule," and other prominent figures, including U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, have followed it closely. 

William Graham talked about his grandfather's code of conduct with The Charlotte Observer"Think about 1948... The image of an evangelist...was kind of synonymous with what you'd think of as a used-car salesman," he said. "When my grandfather would check into a hotel, a man would go inside the room and look under the bed and in the closets. What they were afraid of was that someone had snuck into the room, like a naked lady with a photographer, and she'd jump into his arms and he'd take a picture, and they'd frame my granddaddy."

He held 'crusades' around the world

Over the course of Graham's incredible career, he often held "crusades"–massive evangelistic gatherings of people who wanted to hear him preach. In total, he held a whopping 417 crusades around the globe. According to The Billy Graham Library, his largest event was in in Seoul, South Korea in 1973; some 3.2 million people reportedly attended from May 30 to June 3. More than 1.1 million people reportedly attended the final service, and some 75,000 committed their lives to Christ during that particular crusade.

One of Graham's last major events was held in New York City in 2005. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton and former first lady Hillary Clinton attended, along with NYC Mayor MIchael Bloomberg and some 242,000 others, according to Demoss

"I will be praying for New York every day when I leave here, that God will continue what He has begun," Graham said at the event. "With all my heart I love New York and thank God for it."

He apologized for anti-Semitic remarks

Though Billy Graham is one of the most respected leaders in modern religious history, that doesn't mean he's perfect. Controversy tarnished his name in 2002 when decades-old audio tapes were released that captured the reverend making awful remarks about Jewish people, according to The New York Times

The recorded conversation between Graham and then President Richard M. Nixon revealed the two men openly discussing their dislike of Jewish people supposedly dominating the media. ”This stranglehold has got to be broken or this country's going down the drain," Graham says in one part of the recording.

The reverend apologized with a grand statement that attempted to distance himself from those remarks. ”Although I have no memory of the occasion, I deeply regret comments I apparently made in an Oval Office conversation with President Nixon,” he said. ”They do not reflect my views, and I sincerely apologize for any offense caused by the remarks... Throughout my ministry, I have sought to build bridges between Jews and Christians. I will continue to strongly support all future efforts to advance understanding and mutual respect between our communities.”

His son's succession was rocky

In 1995, Billy Graham chose his eldest son to succeed him. Franklin become the face of the evangelical church and was named first vice chairman of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, reported The New York Times. "As a father I am both proud of his capacity for leadership and humbled in gratitude for the Lord's blessing on him," Billy said.

Despite what could have been a peaceful transition, Franklin's preaching has been far more controversial than his father's, and his outspoken opinions have caused some drama within the church. According to Slate, Franklin kicked up controversy when he openly called for a ban on Muslim immigration to the United States, openly slammed the legalization of gay marriage, and infamously wrote a letter to "Blacks, Whites Latinos, and everyone else," suggesting rampant police shootings could be avoided with respect and obedience. 

Those outspoken political views also played a role in the 2016 U.S Presidential election...

His son's connections to Trump ruffled feathers

Franklin participated in Donald Trump's 2017 inauguration by reading a Bible passage. According to The Washington Post, his very presence at the event sparked a national conversation on the role religion plays at events that are meant to be inclusive for all Americans.

Franklin's participation shouldn't come as a shock. He regularly campaigned for Trump and even joined the newly minted politician on his nationwide "Thank You" tour. Trump called Franklin "so instrumental, we won so big, with evangelical Christians."  

After the election, Franklin shared his take on how and why Trump sailed to victory: "I believe it was God," he said, referring to Trump as an answered prayer for many.

Not everyone in the family agrees with Franklin's politics. "To suggest the president-elect is an ambassador to further the kingdom in the world diminishes not only my Jesus but all he stood for and came to earth to fight against," said Billy Graham's granddaughter, Jerushah Armfield. 

He knew his life wasn't perfect

Does a man who has devoted his life to spirituality and the pursuit of a greater good still have some personal and professional regrets? 

If he could do it all again, Billy Graham said he'd avoid getting entrenched in politics, reported Christianity Today (via Americans United.) "I'm grateful for the opportunities God gave me to minister to people in high places; people in power have spiritual and personal needs like everyone else, and often they have no one to talk to," he said. "But looking back I know I sometimes crossed the line, and I wouldn't do that now."

In a shocking revelation, Graham also implied that he may have fallen short in his own faith. Speaking frankly about his life in his autobiography, Just As I Am, Graham wrote, "I would spend more time in prayer, not just for myself but for others. I would spend more time studying the Bible and meditating on its truth, not only for sermon preparation but to apply its message to my life. It is far too easy for someone in my position to read the Bible only with an eye on a future sermon, overlooking the message God has for me through its pages."

He was optimistic about his trip to heaven

In Just As I Am, Graham wrote without fear about his own death. "I know that soon my life will be over. I thank God for it, and for all He has given me in this life," he said. "But I look forward to Heaven. I look forward to the reunion with friends and loved ones who have gone on before. I look forward to Heaven's freedom from sorrow and pain. I also look forward to serving God in ways we can't begin to imagine, for the Bible makes it clear that Heaven is not a place of idleness."

He also had one big question for God: "Why me, Lord? Why did you choose a farm boy from North Carolina to preach to so many people, to have such a wonderful Team of associates, and to have a part in what you were doing in the latter half of the twentieth century?" Graham wrote. "I have thought about that question a great deal, but I know also that only God knows the answer."

He battled Parkinson's disease

Graham withdrew from public life in recent years, perhaps because of his declining health. 

According to People, the reverend battled Parkinson's disease for more than 20 years. In 2004 he suffered two nasty falls–one resulted in a broken hip and the other broke his pelvic bone. In 2008, Billy underwent brain surgery to control fluid on the brain, reported CBS News. He was also hospitalized for intestinal bleeding around that time.

In November 2017, his son, Franklin Graham, told The Charlotte Observer that his father was no longer able to move about freely and couldn't see or hear very well, although he still had his mental faculties.

Billy addressed the aging process with Christianity Today in 2011: "We've come to look on old age as something to be dreaded — and it's true that it isn't easy."

He lived to be nearly 100 years old

The reverend celebrated his 99th birthday with family on Nov. 7, 2017. To mark the occasion, Franklin told The Charlotte Observer that his father snacked on his favorite–lemon cake with lard icing. "He loves those cakes," Franklin quipped. "But it has to have the lard icing."

While Billy's family celebrated at his home, which he rarely left in his final years, the town of Charlotte, N.C., where he lived, also got in on the fun. The Billy Graham Library announced it would offer cake to all those who stopped by (no word if it was of the lard variety,) and to mark his upcoming 100th birthday in November 2018, the library plans to highlight a different moment or event from his career each month leading up to the big day. 

While those plans for November may still be in effect, Graham unfortunately won't be joining in.The good reverend died at his North Carolina home on Feb. 21, 2018. Condolences and beautiful words poured in from political and religious leaders whose lives Graham touched, including President Jimmy Carter, Vice President Mike Pence, and evangelist Joel Osteen. 

"I think Billy touched the hearts of not only Christians, but people of all faiths, because he was such a good man," former President George H.W. Bush said in a statement.