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Collection 074 Ephemera of Billy Graham

Identifier: CN 074

Scope and Contents

Collection consists of a wide variety of materials documenting Billy Graham's family history, work as an evangelist, and influence as a public figure, inlcuding correspondence, form letters, photographs, audio recordings, films, and oral history interviews, chiefly from 1949 to 1999.


  • Created: 1863-2013

Conditions Governing Access

Copyrighted materials may not be copied or broadcast without permission.

Folders 1-11, 1-12, 1-13, 1-14, 3-5, 3-6 and 3-7 contain copies of materials from Presidential Libraries and the Library of Congress. Researchers desiring copies of these documents will need to acquire them from the institution that owns the original documents.

Any materials in this collection created by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association may not be duplicated or distributed without written permission from the BGEA.

The last 20 minutes of tape T74 is closed to researchers until further notice.

Films F2-F7, F9, F12-16, and videos V1-V8, V13-V26, V31-V40, V42-V47, V49, V52, V55-V60 may not be duplicated. Researchers wanting copies of these programs should contact the original producer.

Biographical or Historical Information

William Franklin Graham, Jr., known as Billy Graham to most of the world, was born on November 7, 1918, near Charlotte, North Carolina, to William Franklin and Morrow Coffey Graham. Billy was the first of four children, followed by Catherine, Melvin, and Jean. In 1919 he was baptized by sprinkling at Chalmers Memorial Church. William Franklin, Sr., was a successful farmer and businessman. Both parents were Christians and the family regularly attended the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. In 1934, evangelist Mordecai Fowler Ham began preaching at a series of revival meetings in Charlotte. He stirred up considerable controversy with his charges of moral laxity at the local high school. Billy attended the meetings, partly attracted by the controversy. Graham was led, while listening to Ham's preaching, which heightened Graham's conviction of his own sin, to commit his life to Christ.

In the fall of 1936, the young man began attending the fundamentalist school, Bob Jones College, in Cleveland, Tennessee. He had begun to consider the possibility of becoming some kind of Christian worker. However, he could not adjust to campus life at Bob Jones and left after a few months. He transferred in January of 1937 to Florida Bible Institute (now Trinity College) from which he graduated in 1940 with a BTh (Bachelor of Theology degree). While at FBI, he became convinced that he should be baptized by immersion as an adult and Rev. John Minder, vice-president of FBI, presided at the sacrament. He began preaching on street corners and at rescue missions and small churches. In December, 1938, while he was leading a series of meetings at the Peniel Baptist Church in East Palatka, Florida, he was baptized again by the church's pastor, Rev. Cecil Underwood (a Southern Baptist), in Silver Lake. He agreed to the baptism to be acceptable to Southern Baptists and at this time began his life-long membership in the Southern Baptist Convention. In February of the next year, he was ordained by Rev. Underwood and other local pastors as a Southern Baptist minister in the St. John's River Association. While still in Florida, he met members of the family of V. Raymond Edman, the president of Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. They praised Graham's preaching ability and Christian character to Edman, who then arranged for him to attend Wheaton. Graham attended from 1940 to 1943, when he graduated with a BA in anthropology. He became pastor of the United Gospel Tabernacle in the town of Wheaton while still a student and also had many other preaching engagements, some out of state.

At Wheaton he met fellow student Ruth Bell, his future wife. She was the daughter of the Southern Presbyterian missionary and surgeon, L. Nelson Bell. The Bells had been stationed in China since 1916. It was in that country and in Korea that Ruth spent her childhood. The couple was married on August 13, 1943, after graduation. Graham's first (and last) pastorate after graduation was at the Baptist church in the Chicago suburb of Western Springs, which was soon thereafter named the Village Church. He served a little over a year. During his time in Western Springs, he took over from another Chicago-area pastor, Torrey Johnson, the religious radio program Songs in the Night. Graham preached on the program every Sunday evening and persuaded George Beverly Shea, a popular Christian soloist, to join him.

The program was only a few months old, however, when Graham left it and the church to become vice president of Youth for Christ. YFC had grown out of the enthusiastic, unconventional Christian rallies that were being held all over the country in the mid-forties for servicemen and young people. Torrey Johnson organized the Chicago meetings and asked Graham to speak at some of them. In 1945, the local Youth for Christ organizations that had sprung up around the country joined together to form one organization under the leadership of Johnson. He then hired Graham as the traveling representative. For the next four years, Graham traveled all over the United States, Canada, and Europe, speaking at rallies and organizing YFC chapters. His two trips to Europe in 1946 and 1946-1947 (the latter trip being his first extended work with song leader Cliff Barrows) had a particularly important influence on shaping his thinking about how evangelistic campaigns should be planned and advertised. In YFC, as at Wheaton, Graham created a deep impression on individuals and large groups through his sincerity, personal attractiveness, and vitality. In turn, both YFC and Wheaton introduced him to many individuals who later became leaders of the evangelical community and who would assist Graham in his evangelistic work. Gradually, as Graham began to hold evangelistic rallies on his own, his work for YFC tapered off, and in 1948 he resigned from the staff, although he remained an active friend of the organization and served on its board of directors for a time.

In 1947, William Bell Riley, who was the founder and president of Northwestern Schools in Minneapolis, met with Graham to ask him to be his successor as head of the institution. Graham was reluctant, but Riley persuaded him. Riley died in December of the same year and Graham became president. Several of the staff and faculty at Northwestern later joined the staff of Graham's evangelistic organization.

Graham had begun to hold his own evangelistic rallies across the country.(The first was in his hometown of Charlotte in 1947.) Working with him were soloist George Beverly Shea, choir director and master of ceremonies Cliff Barrows (whom he met in 1945), and associate evangelist Grady Wilson. (Grady and his brother, T. W., were boyhood friends of Graham's.) Within evangelical and fundamentalist communities in America, Graham became quite well known. At the end of 1949, he suddenly came into national prominence. An evangelistic campaign Graham was leading in Los Angeles resulted in the dramatic conversion of a local underworld figure and a prominent disc jockey, among others. The newspaper magnate, William Randolph Hearst, for reasons unknown, ordered his publications to "puff Graham" and other newspapers around the country followed suit. The campaign, planned for three weeks, lasted seven. Next, Graham went to Boston for a scheduled series of campaigns and again the results were spectacular. He then went on to Columbia, South Carolina, where he met publisher Henry Luce, who was impressed with the evangelist and had articles about him written for his publications, Time and Life magazines.

In the next decade, Graham held evangelistic campaigns in all the major U.S. cities as well as a series of rallies in Africa, Asia, South America, and Europe. He became something of an institution--a symbol for religion in many people's minds. Perhaps the most impressive meetings of his early career were the Greater London Crusade of 1954 and the New York Crusade of 1957.

Graham and his associates were well-aware of the frequent criticism or implied criticism that evangelists were all Elmer Gantry-type con men. Graham, Barrows, Shea, and Grady Wilson had pledged to each other that they would avoid situations in the past which had led to scandals about evangelists, specifically to avoid even any appearance of financial abuse, exercise extreme care to avoid even the appearance of any sexual impropriety (from that point on, Graham made it a point not to travel, meet or eat alone with any woman other than his wife Ruth), to cooperate with any local churches that were willing to participate in united evangelism effort, and to be honest and reliable in their publicity and reporting of results. To order to run his ministry on an orderly, business-like basis, Graham, his wife, Cliff Barrows, Grady Wilson, and George Wilson (a co-worker from YFC and Northwestern Schools) incorporated the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) in 1950. At the same time, Graham began his weekly radio program, The Hour of Decision.

The BGEA staff planned and coordinated evangelistic meetings and other activities of Graham and his associate evangelists. The Association eventually would have offices in cities around the world at various times , including Sydney, Buenos Aires, Winnipeg, London, Paris, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Moscow, and Mexico City. It was based in Minneapolis, Minnesota until 2002, when the international office was moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. Besides its work in evangelism, the BGEA or its subsidiaries, including Grason Company and World Wide Pictures, published periodicals (the color tabloid Decision was prepared in six languages and Braille), books, phonograph records, and audio tapes, as well as produced a variety of media programs, including films, videos, radio and television programs, web sites, web casts, etc.

The heart of the work remained the evangelistic meetings. Graham formed a team of workers who assisted each community having a crusade in planning, holding, and following up the meetings. Most of the original BGEA staff members were drawn either from North Carolina, YFC, or Northwestern Schools (where Graham served as President from 1947 until 1952). Besides Barrows, Shea, Grady Wilson, and George Wilson, important figures were public relations director Gerald Beavan, associate evangelists T. W. Wilson, Leighton Ford, Ralph Bell, Joseph Blinco, Akbar Abdul-Haqq, Roy Gustafson, Howard O. Jones, Lane Adams, and John Wesley White; pianist Tedd Smith, organists Don Hustad and Paul Mickelson; crusade directors Willis Haymaker, Walter H. Smyth and Sterling Huston. In the early 1950s, theNavigators, another evangelistic group, developed a system for following up on the Christian nurture of converts at BGEA crusades. At first, Navigator staff members were loaned to the BGEA to supervise counseling and follow-up, but by the late 1950s, BGEA staff had taken over. Charles Riggs left the Navigators to take charge of crusade counseling and follow-up.

After 1957 Graham generally held three to five crusades a year, while the number of meetings held by the associate evangelists varied more widely. Usually the associates led crusades in smaller cities and towns or even in single churches. Some specialized in different parts of the world. Akbar Haqq and Robert Cunville, for example, regularly held meetings in India and Howard Jones in Africa. All the associates, however, also held meetings in the United States and other countries. From 1964 to 1976, the crusade staff, known as the team, was based in Atlanta, Georgia. Before and after that they were at the main office in Minneapolis and later moved on to Charlotte. The name of this department was changed from "Team Office" to "Field Ministries " in the late 1980s. Reports on all of Graham's crusades and some of the associates' regularly appeared in Decision and hour long versions of several services from a major crusade would be broadcast on television usually a few months after the crusade close. In major crusades in large cities, both in the United States and other countries, Graham would preach to hundreds of thousands or even millions of people. The BGEA only held crusades in places where they had been invited by a large number of local pastors and laypersons, although the organization received so many such invitations that the evangelists could virtually pick the place they wanted to go. Staff would investigate each invitation to see if there was wide support for the meeting and then a decision would be made whether to accept the offer or not. For many months ahead of time, a crusade director and other staff people from the BGEA would be working with the local executive committee (incorporated as a separate entity), setting up subordinate committees; recruiting choir members, ushers, counselors, and others; making arrangements for the auditorium or stadium; overseeing publicity; etc. In general, local volunteers prepared for the meetings under the guidance of BGEA staff who followed a procedure developed in hundreds of such crusades. The services themselves consisted of singing by the volunteer choir, a testimony from some well known person, the offering, solos by George Beverly Shea and/or other singers, and the sermon. People who came forward at the evangelist's invitation at the end of services to become Christians or to renew their commitment or to get more information were referred to volunteer counselors who would later refer them to a cooperating pastor in their community. They also received a workbook through the mail to help them as they began Bible study.

In 1962, acting on the suggestions of Lane Adams and businessman Lowell Berry, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association began to investigate the possibility of holding seminars in conjunction with crusades. These seminars would be aimed at seminary students and would provide the future ministers with a theoretical and experimental understanding of the ways and means of mass evangelism. The program was officially organized in the Chicago crusade in 1962 when twenty young men from seven seminaries participated. The trial programs were enthusiastically received and the School of Evangelism became a regular part of major crusades. The aim changed slightly over the years as the main focus moved to pastors, although others could attend as well. A typical school consisted of a series of seminars and lectures on various aspects of practical evangelism. The speakers were members of the BGEA or people closely associated with it. For many years these schools were only held in conjunction with a crusade, but in the 1980's, annual SOE's were held by themselves at the Billy Graham Center and the Cove (see below) and other sites.

As mentioned above, the Hour of Decision radio program was one of the first projects of the BGEA. At first, Cliff Barrows served as announcer, Jerry Beavan reported on Graham's evangelistic campaign, George Beverly Shea sang, and Grady Wilson read Scripture. Then Graham brought a brief message. Although the format and participants varied some over the years, the heart of the program remained Graham's sermon, which often was closely related to or took its starting point from current events. Occasionally, one of Graham's associates, such as Leighton Ford, would give the message. One hundred fifty stations on the ABC network carried the first broadcast. The first year on the air brought in over 178,000 pieces of mail and the number steadily rose year by year. By 1970, over 1200 stations worldwide carried the program to an audience estimated in the tens of millions. Cliff Barrows became the supervisor of the recording of the program, assisted by John Lenning. Lee Fischer helped with the preparation of many of Graham's radio messages in the 1950s and 1960s, followed by Robert Ferm and John Akers.

Besides producing a radio show, the BGEA also was associated with radio stations in North Carolina and in Hawaii. The station in Hawaii, KAIM FM and AM, was started shortly after World War II by the Christian Broadcasting Association. It became affiliated with the BGEA in 1959. The station in North Carolina was begun by the BGEA about the same time and was owned by theBlue Ridge Broadcasting Corporation, a BGEA subsidiary. The call letters for the AM station were WFGW and for the FM station were WMIT. Programming included many religious shows and was aimed at a general audience.

From 1951 to 1954, there was also an Hour of Decision television show. This was produced by Walter F. Bennett and Company and was filmed in a studio, with a format very similar to the radio program. The television program also often had special guests. After taking this program off the air, the BGEA did little with the medium until 1957, when it broadcast one-hour programs of segments of the crusade being held in New York. After that, it became the usual practice for the BGEA to nationally broadcast on consecutive nights three to five programs from the same crusade. These programs were edited tape, not live, and were usually aired several months after the end of the actual crusade. Several of these series were broadcast each year. Apart from a few specials, this was the BGEA's method for using television for mass evangelism. After each program, addresses were given to which viewers could write for more information. Later, telephone numbers were also given which people could call for counseling.

Billy Graham was introduced to Dick Ross, owner of Great Commission Films, in 1949. During Graham's Portland campaign in 1950, Ross produced a documentary film on the crusade and its activities. The film's success led to the Great Commission Films being bought out by the BGEA, and the assets of the company were used to start The Billy Graham Evangelistic Film Ministry, which was incorporated in Maryland in 1952. Dick Ross was the company's first president. The company was generally known as World Wide Pictures (WWP), but this did not become its legal name until 1980. The purpose of WWP was to produce and distribute films about BGEA crusades. Many of these would combine a fictional or true story of a person's conversion with scenes from an actual crusade, including portions of a sermon by Graham.

Mr. Texas was the first World Wide feature film. It was made during the 1951 Fort Worth Crusade and premiered at the conclusion of the Hollywood Bowl Crusade. Other feature films followed, including For Pete's Sake, The Restless Ones, The Hiding Place, and Joni. World Wide acquired a studio and headquarters in Burbank, California. In 1970, William Brown became the company's president, a position he held until 1988. WWP's distribution office for the films was next to the BGEA headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota. From the 1950s on, World Wide Pictures had their production studio in Burbank,California. This was where the studio scenes in the films were shot and where in-house editing and other technical work was done. As mentioned above, this office was closed in 1988 and all WWP operations were consolidated in Minneapolis. BGEA offices in other countries assisted in distributing the films around the world. Most of the films were distributed to churches and other religious groups but sometimes also to theaters for the general public. By the 2000s, production was limited to special projects, although WWP was still distribution of earlier moving image productions around the world.

Decision magazine was another branch of the BGEA. Sherwood Wirt was hired as editor in 1958. His mandate was to prepare a monthly magazine of a few pages aimed at a general audience, which would contain Bible studies, Christian teaching, brief news items, stories from church history and articles about recent crusades. Robert Ferm, Graham's personal assistant, was co-editor of the new publication and helped to represent the evangelist's viewpoint. The first issue came out in November 1960. Eventually, separate editions were prepared in Spanish, French, and German as well as special Australian and British versions. These other versions, except for the Spanish edition, eventually became independent magazines, so that by 1988 Decision was published only in English and Spanish. Roger Palms followed Wirt as editor in 1976. For years the magazine was tabloid size, but in 1985, it went to a smaller format. The circulation in 1988 was approximately two million.

Grason Company (started by Billy Graham and George Wilson) was incorporated shortly after the BGEA itself, in January 1952. Its purpose was to publish and distribute books, records, music and other materials which the BGEA used in its work. It produced much of the material given away at crusades to inquirers (including those who responded by letter or phone to television broadcasts of crusades). Any profits from its retail sales were given to the BGEA. Wholesale sales were handled by another organization, World Wide Publications.

The BGEA had various offices in the United States. Except for the period from 1964 to 1976, when the Team office was separated out to Atlanta, Georgia, the organization's main office was in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Organization executives by the 1980s included a director of foreign crusades, a director for Graham's United States crusades (sometimes the same person) and a director of the associate evangelists crusades. The associate evangelists generally also had an office at their homes. Also located in Minneapolis were Decision, Grason, and Wide Publications offices, as well as the counseling staff which answered the thousands of letters Graham got every year from people seeking advice and comfort. Here too was the staff that handled the BGEA's massive mailing list, its financial operations and public relations. Most of these operations were under the executive vice-president of the BGEA, who was generally in charge of administrative and business matters. The World Wide Pictures distribution office was in Minneapolis as well. For a brief time from 1964 to 1976, the office of the vice president for crusades was in Atlanta. When that office was closed, the staff moved back to Minneapolis. Another BGEA office was opened in Washington, DC in 1956, but closed not long afterwards.

The other major office in the United States was in Montreat, North Carolina, where Graham had his home. The staff there helped him with his appointments, travels, sermons, and other responsibilities. His close advisor and associate evangelist, T. W. Wilson, also had his office in Montreat. The Montreat office had a large reference library on evangelism and preaching.

Outside of the United States, there were a number of BGEA affiliates. They usually coordinated the showing of BGEA films in their country; the broadcast of radio and television programs where appropriate; the production of the national version of Decision, if there was one; arrangements for crusades in that country, etc. At one time, the BGEA had affiliates in Great Britain (1955), Mexico, Canada (1954), Germany (1963), Japan (1967), Argentina, Australia (1959), France, and Hong Kong (1972). In the 1980s many of these offices were closed down or their activities were greatly decreased.

Besides evangelism, radio, television, and films, Graham was involved in many literary endeavors, including the books Calling Youth to Christ (1947), Revival in Our Times (1950), America's Hour of Decision (1951), Peace With God (1953), The Secret of Happiness (1955), World Aflame (1965), The Challenge (1969), The Jesus Generation (1971), Angels: God's Secret Agents(1975), and How To Be Born Again (1977), The Holy Spirit: Activating God's Power in Your Life (1980), Till Armageddon: A Perspective on Suffering (1981), Armageddon Hoof beats: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1983), Facing Death and the Life After (1987), Answers to Life's Problems (1988), Hope for the Troubled Heart (1991), Storm Warning (1992), and Journey: How to Live By Faith in an Uncertain World (2006) In 1997, he published his autobiography, Just As I Am. He was also responsible for a vast number of articles, tracts and similar items and a long-running syndicated newspaper column, "My Answer."

Throughout his career, Graham had critics of varying degrees of intensity. The criticisms generally fell into four different categories. Fundamentalists accused him of "ecumenical evangelism," that is, corrupting his message by accepting help and support from pseudo-Christians. Liberal Christians often wrote that he cared too much for evangelism and not enough for helping to ease the social ills of society. Some also attacked the crusades for being mechanical spectacles which moved people through emotionalism and left little in the way of results. Some evangelists felt he was too close to rulers and men of power who used him to increase their own legitimacy. These criticisms became particularly persistent in the mid-1970s because of Graham's friendship with President Richard Nixon, then enmeshed in the Watergate scandal. Graham rarely answered critics, except to state that he felt his primary task, his calling from God, was to preach the Gospel, and he would accept help from anyone who did not place restrictions on his message. He continued to have cordial relations with U.S. presidents and often gave the prayer at presidential inaugurals.

Graham had always had a deep interest in education and a commitment to training Christians in the methods of evangelism, as illustrated by the Schools of Evangelism. Two other projects of the BGEA illustrate this interest. As early as 1969, Graham and his associates had been thinking about both the preservation of the BGEA's historical materials and an evangelistic training center.Dr. Lois Ferm was involved in this early planning process. In 1974, the BGEA agreed to donate funds to create the Billy Graham Center on the campus of Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. The Center, which was dedicated in 1980, included an archives, museum, and library all dedicated to the study of evangelism, as well as an Institute of Evangelism and various institutes intended to assist evangelistic work in different parts of the world and among various ethnic groups. The Center was a part of Wheaton College, but it worked closely with the BGEA and maintained the archives of the Association. The BGEA set up a separate corporation to hold the endowment from which, for many years, it made yearly donations to the Center for the maintenance of its work and for other projects.

One of these other projects was the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove. The BGEA had acquired this property in western North Carolina near Asheville many years before and the board of the BGEA had long wanted to turn it into a school offering non-credit training in the Bible and evangelism to Christian workers and laypersons. In the early 1980s, the BGEA contracted with Columbia Bible College for CBC to start and run the school. After a few years, Columbia and the BGEA mutually decided to cancel the arrangement. In 1987, the board of directors of the Association announced that the Billy Graham Training Center would be on that site, a training Center, to quote from the Cove's 1988 brochure, "where the laity can study the Bible in depth and be trained to reach the lost for Christ, thereby serving more effectively within the local church." The staff appointed in 1987 included Tom Phillips, a former crusade director, as director of programming; Jerry Miller as director of property development and operations; and Larry Turner as director of the facility. Franklin Graham, son of the evangelist, became chairman of the board of trustees for the center.

The BGEA was one of, if not the, major influence on several twentieth century Evangelical eventssuch as the founding of Christianity Today magazine in 1955, the World Congress on Evangelism in Berlin in 1966, the International Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne in 1974, and the three International Conference for Itinerant Evangelsits. Christianity Today was started by Graham, his father-in-law L. Nelson Bell, Howard Pew, and others to present the evangelical viewpoint to theologically liberal Protestant pastors. The journal evolved, however, becoming the leading voice of American evangelicals with the major share of its audience among evangelicals. The two Congresses, which also begat smaller regional congresses and consultations around the world, were meetings of Protestant leaders from around the globe who gathered to plan cooperative strategies for spreading the Gospel and serving the needs of the Church. After the 1974 Congress, the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization was created to coordinate future meetings and continue the work of the Congress. This committee was separate from the BGEA.

In 1983, 1986 and 2000, the BGEA held meetings in Amsterdam for Christian workers particularly involved in preaching the Gospel to non-Christians. The first two meetings were called the International Congress of Itinerant Evangelists 1983, and the International Congress of Itinerant Evangelists 1986 (ICIE); the third event was called Amsterdam 2000. A particular effort was made to bring people from the Third World at the grass roots level, as opposed to leaders of organizations. During the conferences, sessions were held for the encouragement and training of the attenders, as well as plenary sessions addressed by Graham and others. Almost four thousand evangelists attended in 1983, more than eight thousand in 1986, and over ten thousand in 2000. In the 1980s and 90s, television was used to reach increasing larger, populations, culminating in the April 1996 Global World Mission broadcast with an estimated potential audience of 2.5 billion people

Since 1945, Graham and his wife lived in Montreat, North Carolina. The couple had five children: Virginia Leftwich, Anne Morrow, Ruth Bell, William Franklin, and Nelson Edman. In 1992 it was announced by the BGEA that Graham had Parkinson's disease and would be easing back somewhat on his extremely busy schedule. In 1995, Graham's eldest son, William Franklin Graham III, was made vice chairman of the BGEA board and it was announced he would be his father's successor when the time came for Billy Graham to leave the ministry. In May of the same year, Billy and Ruth Graham received the Congressional Medal at a ceremony held at the Capitol in Washington, DC. After the terrorists attacks on Oklahoma city in 1995 and on New York City and Washington in 2001, Graham, acting almost as a national pastor, gave moving sermons during memorial services to a nation in mourning.In late 2000 Franklin Graham was named chief executive officer of the BGEA, while Billy Graham continued his crusade ministry. The following year Franklin Graham succeeded his father as president of the BGEA. Billy Graham, who had been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 1992, had begun hold lest extensive and numerous evangelistic campaigns and in mid-2005 held his last campaign in New York City. Following that, he lived in retirement with his wife in Montreat, although still much involved with the planning and work of the BGEA.

On May 31, 2007, a public exhibit, called the Billy Graham Library, was dedicated on the grounds of the BGEA headquarters in Charlotte. The multi-story, 40,000 square foot building told the story of Graham's life and ministry and made an appeal to visitors to come to Jesus Christ as Savior. Graham's boyhood home was also moved onto the property and opened to visitors. Two weeks later, Ruth Bell Graham died and was buried on the grounds of the Library, next to the site reserved for her husband.


15.24 Cubic Feet (11 Boxes (1 RC, 9 DC, 1 ODC), Audio Tapes, Films, Microfilm, Negatives, Oversize Materials, Phonograph Records, Photographs, Slides, Video Tapes )

Language of Materials


Arrangement of Material

[NOTE: In the Arrangement description, the notation "Folder 2-6" means box 2, Folder 6.]

This collection contains mainly materials gathered by the staff about Billy Graham or the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and its affiliates which were not produced by the BGEA.

Series: Paper Records

Arrangement: Alphabetical by title (folder titles assigned by Archives staff)

Date Range: 1913-1999

Volume: 5.55 cubic feet

Boxes: 1-11

Type of documents: Correspondence, clippings, brochures, cartons, memos, song sheets, indexes, programs, scrapbooks, transcripts, etc.

Correspondents: Dwight David Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, Lyndon Johnson, John Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Harry Truman

Subjects: Billy Graham's life and ministry, his influence as a public figure, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and its evangelistic work, evangelism in the twentieth century, American Evangelicalism, the relations between Billy Graham and various American presidents, American social and religious history in the last half of the twentieth century

Notes: Included are documents about the Graham family tree, samples of mailings sent out by the BGEA, correspondence between Graham and various national and religious leaders, samples of materials produced for crusades, audio and video tapes and films of Graham speaking, news coverage of his activities, documentaries about his life and work, and materials relating to individual evangelistic meetings and Hour of Decision radio programs. The audio tapes, books, films, microfilms, oversize materials, phonograph records, and video tapes have been stored separately from the paper records and are described on their own location records elsewhere in this guide, although some of their contents are also discussed in this description. The researcher should also check the clipping file in Collection 360 for more information on Graham. The earliest materials in the collection are the items in folder 1-7 which deal with the life of North Carolinian Benjamin Morrow Coffey, Graham's maternal grandfather. The folder consists of photocopies of documents in the possession of the Graham family. It includes a four-page biographical sketch of Coffey's war service. It was written in 1913 by Annie Lee Coffey Barker (although it is unsigned), and was probably dictated by Coffey himself. This sketch appears, very slightly edited, in a newspaper obituary of Coffey two years later, also extant in the folder. There is a one-page transcript showing the lineage of Coffey from William Alexander (1598-1652). The bulk of the folder consists of ten Civil War letters; five of these are from Coffey to his family. In the earliest letters of this series, he writes of marches, of seeing makeshift graveyards with soldiers' bodies not fully buried. The other four are written after his injuries at Gettysburg, and are mostly occupied with his improving health. Two of the letters are from W. L. Grier, Coffey's company captain; these letters also contain information about Coffey's health and the fate of the regiment. Single letters from J. A. Gallant and J. W. Brown report war news in general. A letter from company-mate Elias M. Crowell, written shortly before the Union siege of Petersburg, Virginia, discusses the expected battle and predicts a Confederate victory. Folder 3-2 contains an article by and xeroxes of clippings gathered by James Lutzweiler about how Billy Graham came to know the Lord and the development of his faith from his conversion at the Mordecai Ham meetings in 1934 through Monroe Parker's meetings in 1935. In 2010, the staff of the BGC Archives sent brief questionnaires to the approximately 480 Wheaton College alumnae from the classes of 1940 through 1946 whose attendance at the college overlapped that of Graham (who attended from the fall of 1940 through the spring of 1943). They were asked 1) if they had documents from the period related to Graham and, 2) if they were willing to be interviewed about their memories of Graham. 112 responses were received. Most of these were in the negative, but even most of the negative responses included a few comments about their memories of Graham as a student. Any questionnaire that had any comment about Graham at all was kept.

Questionnaires that had only “No” checked and nothing else were discarded. The net result of the project was several dozen questionnaires with handwritten comments, several typed and written brief memoirs and a few other documents, (including one 1944 letter over Graham’s signature), and 22 oral history interviews totaling a little less than 19 hours. The interviews are described in detail in the description for Series II. These questionnaires are in folder 11-5. The memoirs and other documents donated by alumni are in folder 11-4. Two items in this folder are of particular interest. One is a four page typed 1955 letter by Rev. W. Lloyd Fesmire. Rev. Fesmire was Graham’s roommate at Wheaton and later followed him as pastor of the Village Church in Western Springs, Illinois. The letter is filled with interesting details about Graham as a college student and as pastor of the Village Church. The second item is a notebook prepared by Dr. Mark Lee, given written answers to questions he also answered orally in the interview (the notebook was prepared before the interview). In many cases the notebook contains additional information beyond what was included in the oral interview. Dr. Lee was not actually a classmate of Graham’s, but was on the faculty of Northwestern Schools while Graham was president there. Next in point of time, is Graham's Western Springs, Illinois, pastorate (June 1943 through the end of 1944). Besides a few photos described in the photo files, there are a set of church newsletters in folder 11-2. These newsletters cover the years 1944 through 1951, so most of them are after Graham’s tenure, but those from 1944 and 1945well describe the various outreach efforts Graham initiated, (especially the radio program Songs in the Night and include several excerpts from his sermons and radio broadcasts. There is also information on other friends and associates, such as George Beverly Shea, Don Hustad, Lloyd Fesmire, and Peter Stam. The folder also contains some of the brochures created to advertise the radio program (all postGraham) and a booklet on the program’s history printed in the 1970s. The original material in the folder came from a former member of the church, who also included a handwritten list of the 1943-1946 speakers at the West Suburban Men’s Fellowship started by Graham. The folder also contains several photopcopies of letters and other documents from the time of Graham's pastorate, which the Archives was able to make through the courtesy of the Western Springs Baptist Church and the Western Springs Historical Society. Next are several documents from Graham's ministry which predate the national prominence he received in 1949.

There are slides and photos from meetings in the last 1940s (described on the proper location record) and, in folder 3-1, a series of brief appreciation notes (probably included in offering envelopes) from individuals describing how they have benefited from Graham's meetings. Most of these are from the 1948 Augusta, Georgia, meetings, but there is at least one each from Los Angeles (1949) and Boston (1949-1950). His time as president of Northwestern College in Minnesota is documented in tape T26. Some of the yearbooks have paper tabs which had been put in by BGEA staff when they used the books for reference. The issues of the Pilot mostly cover the years before Graham became executive vice president and then president of the school. The 1949 meetings in Los Angeles mark the beginning of Graham as a well known figure on the national stage. The collection includes Canvas Cathedral (F1), which was made in 1949 about Graham's "Christ for Greater Los Angeles" meetings.

The collection also contains a video tape copy of this film (V12). Other items, such as the photographs of the 1950 Columbia Crusade, the phonograph record album from the BGEA film Mr. Texas (P1, P2, P3), and the tape of the first Hour of Decision radio program illustrate the growing size and outreach of Graham's organization. The crusade was the basic activity of the BGEA, Items relating to particular evangelistic crusades can be identified by folder title or by the description of items in the location records. A few of the more significant items are covered in these notes, but the researcher should be aware it is not exhaustive and should check the location records and container list for items of interest. Folder 6-4 contains statements by Graham on why he held evangelistic meetings in England in 1954 and 1955. Folder 6-5 contains a transcript of the ceremonies before his rally in Seoul Korea in 1956, including comments by Syngman Rhee. The folder also has the text of an interview of Graham by Bob Pierce.

Several items in the collection are from the 1957 New York Crusade, such as newsletters in folder 1-27, the newsreel films F2 and F3 (including a shot of the then vice president, Richard Nixon, addressing the audience), and the phonograph record P6. It includes a mimeographed message from Ethel Waters. Especially interesting is the notebook in folder 1-26. This was prepared by David Howard, a Latin America Mission staff member who was loaned to the BGEA to make preparations for evangelistic meetings which were going to be held in Mexico City as part of a tour of Caribbean countries undertaken by Graham in 1958. The notebook, which is in both Spanish and English, contains the various forms used for training counselors, arranging for publicity, setting up committees, preparing music, following up, etc. It also contains several personal letters which describe the hectic pace Howard followed as he made arrangements and which record his impressions of Graham and his co-workers, as well as draws some interesting contrasts between Graham and Reinhold Niebuhr.

Folder 11-3 contains a chapter from an unpublished autobiography written by Jane Sorenson ca. 1990. In this chapter she describes in detail her attendance at a November 13, 1956 evangelistic meeting in Wheaton, Illinois led by Graham and how she gave her life to Jesus Christ as a result.

Folder 7-4 contains a 1961 radio script for the This is Dimension radio program. The story is about World Wide Pictures, the film arm of the BGEA. Attached to the script are notes which the reporter, Ralph Story, evidently took while gathering information about Billy Graham and World Wide. The crusade in Charlotte, North Carolina, occurred in 1958 and the scrapbook in oversize drawer 12 contains newspaper clippings of Graham's sermons as well as human interest stories. Paper copies of transcripts of almost all of Graham's sermons during the meeting (made from the newspaper coverage) are in folders 7-1 and 7-2.

Folder 7-3 contains the same material in digital form (floppy disks). Folders 8-2 and 8-3 contain scrapbooks of clippings from the 1989 Arkansas Crusade, including stories about Governor Bill Clinton and W. O. Vaught. Programs, tickets, promotional materials, and other miscellaneous records from a variety of crusades dated between 1953 and 1983 are in folders 1-7 through 1-32 (see Box List for cities and dates). Material on the Hour of Decision will be found in folder 1-1, and a pamphlet describing the origins of famous hymns used in crusades is in folder 1-3.

Folder 11-6 contains photocopies of two brief letters by Graham. One is to Emma Moody Powell, granddaughter of Dwight L. Moody. The other is to a letter of condolence Mrs. Powell’s family after her death. Some folders contain copies of the letters and other materials sent by the BGEA to its constituents. There are also letters about the founding of Christianity Today magazine and the annual Christmas greetings from the Grahams.

Folders 1-9, 1-18, and 1-32 contain other items and newsletters from the BGEA's various divisions. Starting in 1952, Graham had a regular column in many newspapers in which he answered questions about spiritual or social problems.

Folders 4-1 through 4-4 contain a sampling of these columns from the 1970s which were gathered by the Billy Graham Center Museum staff for an exhibit they were planning. These excerpts, arranged alphabetically by title, give a good idea of the range of topics Graham covered and his thinking on many questions. For example, the C section includes columns on the charismatic movement, cheating, Christ, Christian life, church attendance, church membership, clergy, communism, conscience, creation, cremation, criticism, the cross, and cults. Several files contain materials relating to Graham in non-evangelistic activities or as a public figure. For example folder 5-4 contains the program from the dedication of a village in India, destroyed during a typhoon. The village, renamed after Billy Graham, was reconstructed through the partial assistance of the BGEA.

Folder 5-5 contains materials from the 1996 ceremony in which he and his wife Ruth received the Congressional Gold Medal (see also V47 and V48). Graham led a worship service as part of the 1970 Honor America Day program and folder 5-8 contains material from that event. Graham also preached at another non-BGEA event, Explo 72, which was sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ. The program and other information about that meeting can be found in folder 3-9.

Folder 1-9 contains a translation of a letter from a group of imprisoned Czech Christians, criticizing his 1982 visit to their country. Graham has been both respected and criticized for his relationship with the elite of America, particularly the presidents.

Folders 1-11 to 1-14 and 3-6 and 3-7 contain copies from the various presidential libraries of the National Archives of Graham's correspondence with Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford and their staffs and other documents relating to Graham and individual presidents. The letters deal with Graham's requests for a meeting with or message from Truman, the need for a day of repentance and prayer, the need for military security against communism, the 1952 Washington, DC, Crusade, the war in Korea, Eisenhower's opinion of Graham, the possibility of support from religious leaders in the 1952 presidential campaign, requests for a meeting with Eisenhower, Anglo-American relations, Graham's 1955 European Tour, whether Eisenhower should run for a second term, Graham's 1956 attempts to build racial harmony in the South, the 1956 Republican Convention, Graham's views on the reason for Abraham Lincoln's greatness, requests for a meeting with Kennedy, Johnson's civil rights' program, the need for a day of prayer regarding American's race problems, the Vietnam War, crime in the United States, Graham's visits to servicemen in Vietnam, the War on Poverty, the election of 1968, Graham's friendship with Johnson after his retirement, dedication of the Johnson presidential library, missionary attitudes toward the Vietnam War, the continuing crisis in the Middle East, White House religious services, Norman Vincent Peale, the Watergate scandal, the election of 1972, Graham's descriptions of his visits to various parts of the world, Graham's meeting in 1971 with General and Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, and consultation with Graham by the White House staff about current issues.

Folder 3-5 contains photocopies of documents from the Library of Congress about Graham's friendship with Richard Nixon. It consists mainly of notes and memos of the White House staff about phone calls from or to Graham and meetings with him on topics similar to those covered in folder 3-6. Also from the National Archives is the microfilm which contains correspondence between Graham and Richard Nixon for the years 1956 to 1963. The correspondence is on the reel in reverse chronological order. Topics covered include Thomas Dewey's opinion of Nixon, Graham's suggestion that Nixon address religious gatherings, Graham's request for help for Jawaharial Nehru, Nixon's 1956 acceptance speech for the vice presidential nomination, the 1956 Hungarian Revolt, Graham's 1957 meeting at Yale University, the 1957 New York Crusade at which Nixon spoke, the status of Christianity Today magazine, Graham's 1958 tour of Australia and his request for assistance, racial tensions in the United States, Graham's assessment of Nixon given to author Earl Mazo, the requests for assistance on the 1960 tour of Africa, Graham's support for Nixon in the 1960 presidential election, the possibility of Walter Judd for vice president, the U-2 crisis, the possibility of Nixon contacting Martin Luther King, the religious issue in the election, the writing of Six Crises, and the 1962 California election and Nixon's reaction to his defeat.

The photocopies in folders 3-5 through 3-7 were given to the Archives by Dr. Eric Paddon and were gathered by him in the course of his own research at the National Archives and Library of Congress.

Folder 5-9 contains the program for the 1981 presidential inauguration of Ronald Reagan, in which Graham participated.

Folder 2-8 contains portions of two oral history transcripts of interviews with John Jay Hooker which discuss the attitudes of anti-Catholic reaction which were generated initially by Kennedy's nomination for the presidency. Graham and his father are both mentioned in the context of each interview.


Series: Non-paper Records

Arrangement: Chronological or alphabetical or numerically by item number

Date Range: 1943-1997

Geographic coverage: Mostly United States, with material from or about Canada, Czechoslovakia, Eastern Europe, Great Britain, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, the Soviet Union and Sweden

Type of documents: Audio tapes, films, microfilm, negatives, phonograph records, photos, slides, videos

Subjects: Billy Graham's life and ministry, his influence as a public figure, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and its evangelistic work, evangelism in the twentieth century, American Evangelicalism, the relations between Billy Graham and various American presidents, American social and religious history in the last half of the twentieth century

Notes: The non-paper records are each described in detail on their individual location records

Exceptional Items: Documentaries about Graham and/or interview of him: T6, T18, T20, V7-V12, V14, V18, V31, V32, V38, V40, V42, V43, V48, V49, V51, V52.

Videos V19-V24 contain a documentary series about the Religious Right in the United States that includes material on Graham.

Side 1 of audio tape T5 contains Graham's fifty-five-minute address to the National Association of Evangelicals Convention held in Denver, Colorado, in March 1962. His topic, "In God We Trust," uses the text from II Thessalonians 2:2ff. Graham summarizes the state of the American religious situation and Evangelicalism based on his observations and experiences. He discusses the scope of declining morality and problems of alcoholism and drugs, the revival of religion after World War II, and subsequent captivation by materialism. He also discusses a parallel spontaneous growth of prayer and study groups, German theologians and theology, social concerns of Evangelicals, and the needs and responses of American young people. In the final segment of the tape, Graham details some solutions for correcting the problems, a return to disciplines of prayer and life style, spiritual expectancy and enthusiasm, and acknowledgment of God's justifiable wrath and eschatological promises. The tape concludes with a listing of tapes and books available from Victory In Christ, a Wheaton, Illinois, firm. Side 2 of this tape contains a 45-minute address by Dr. Herbert Mekeel titled "The Ecumenical Direction," also delivered at the NAE Convention. Dr. Mekeel discusses the dangers inherent in an ecumenism which does not remain firm to biblical affirmations and acknowledge real doctrinal and practical issues of authority between Roman Catholics and Protestants. It is followed by a ten-minute segment of a speech by Bob Pierce, director of World Vision, in which he observes the hunger for simple facts of Christianity in non-English-speaking countries. There is background noise on the tape and no introduction of either man.

Audio tape T6 begins with a twelve-minute informal interview of Graham by R. Alan Street in which he asks questions about the origin and history of his use of the invitation. The remaining portion of the tape is recorded at the Greater Baltimore Crusade, June 9, 1981, and consists of a portion of Graham's address, which was based on John 5:1. Street's questions and answers sent to and received from Cliff Barrows regarding the importance of music to the invitation are contained on tape T7. He discusses Luther's view of music, how it has been varyingly used by the Graham crusade staff, its differing use for television, and the reasons for use of particular hymns at the time of the invitation. Timing of musical segments, hymns which are doctrinally sound for use in crusades, music's value as a unifying influence in the audience, and the relation of content to the sermon and the value for knowledge of theology are discussed.

Tape T8 is a part of Street's investigation into the invitation and its contrasting use by other evangelists. It consists of the closing portions of two services, November 5, 1979, and September 7, 1980, in which W. A. Criswell gives the invitation and then the responses of those who came forward are heard as they were questioned before the congregation. Correspondence relating to Street's questions for Graham is found in folders 1-2 and 1-14. Folder 2-5 contains a forty-six-page copy of a history of Baltimore by Street. Folder 1-2 contains a brochure for Street's evangelistic ministry which includes a section on his interview with Graham.

In the DVD files, DVD2 covers the 2007 dedication of the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina, attended by three former U.S. presidents.

In 2010, the staff of the Archives began contacting people whose time as Wheaton College students had overlapped that of Billy Graham’s (1940-1943). Many of these gave brief oral history interviews (most over the phone) or sent written reminiscences or documents. The documents and questionnaires are in folder 11-4 and 11-5.

Accruals and Additions

The material in this collection was gathered from many sources and artificially combined into one collection by the Archives staff. The earliest accession was received in 1978 and the latest in 2010. A list of books, pamphlets, and periodicals transferred to the BGC Library is available upon request.

Accession 78-14, 78-25, 79-24, 79-27, 79-63,79-76, 79-97, 79-120, 80-3, 80-37, 80-47, 80-52, 80-61, 80-72, 80-86, 80-105, 80-113, 80-121, 80-124, 80-126, 80-131, 80-138, 80-149, 80-153, 80-155, 80-158, 80-167, 81-5, 81-25, 81-73, 81-154, 82-12, 82-24, 82-26, 82-36, 82-83, 82-95, 82-105, 82-109, 82-111, 82-114, 82-132, 82-155, 82-156, 82-169, 83-42, 83-44, 83-54, 83-81, 83-82, 83-98, 83-116, 83-119, 83-135, 83-137, 83-141, 83-145, 83-169, 84-88, 84-95, 84-98, 84-122, 85-61, 85-138, 85-171, 86-3, 86-92, 87-95, 87-157, 87-163, 88-81, 89-23, 89-53, 89-68, 89-69, 89-78, 89-111, 90-68, 90-99, 90-112, 91-32, 91-35, 91-92, 92-46, 92-89, 92-144, 93-03, 93-19, 93-28, 93-54, 93-68, 93-78, 93-81, 93-87, 93-95, 93-120, 94-35, 95-34, 95-89, 96-7, 96-42, 96-84, 96-85, 96-88, 96-93, 97-6, 97-38, 97-43, 97-44, 98-13, 98-39, 98-41, 99-2, 99-27, 99-28, 99-32, 99-34, 99-35, 00-57, 00-73, 01-01, 01-12, 01-16, 01-23, 01-54, 01-73, 02-01, 02-04, 02-15, 02-27 02-32, 02-47, 02-73, 06-24, 06-43, 07-14, 07-45, 07-48, 08-04, 08-29, 08-30, 08-49, 08-60, 09-02, 10-20, 10-22, 10-25, 10-26, 10-27, 10-29, 10-31, 10-33, 10-34, 10-35, 10-38, 10-41, 10-44, 10-49, 10-51, 10-53, 10-61, 10-58, 10-62, 10-64, 10-65, 10-67, 10-69, 10-71, 10-74, 10-75, 10-76, 10-84, 12-03, 13-19, 13-20, 15-32

January 19, 1981 Robert Shuster A. Labiano A. Peterson G. Wilson M. Arnold

February 8, 1983 Frances L. Brocker J. Nasgowitz

Revised, February 8, 1984 Frances L. Brocker J. Nasgowitz

Revised, September 8, 1987 Robert Shuster J. Nasgowitz

Revised, April 13, 1993 Robert Shuster

Revised, June 18, 1993 M. L. Larson

Updated, July 15, 1998 Robert Shuster

Updated, June 26, 2001 Robert Shuster W. Valentine

Updated, July 16, 2002 Robert Shuster

Updated, February 23, 2004 Accession 04-12 Bob Shuster

Updated, May 11, 2004 Accession 95-117, 00-69 Christian Sawyer J. Dennison E. Kuehn

Updated, January 26, 2005 Accession 05-08 Christian Sawyer

Updated, April 26, 2005 Accession 05-26 Bob Shuster

Updated November 17, 2005 Acc. 05-64 Bob Shuster

Updated May 16, 2006 Acc. 00-73, 01-01, 01-12, 01-16, 01-54, 01-73, 02-01, 02-04, 02-15, 02-27, 02-47 Bob Shuster

Updated October 17, 2006 Acc. 06-43 Bob Shuster

Updated May 31, 2008 Acc. 08-29, 08-30 Bob Shuster

Accession 89-34 September 16, 2008 Bob Shuster

Updated January 13, 2010 Acc. 08-04 Bob Shuster

Updated January 19, 2010 Acc. 07-45, 07-48 Bob Shuster

Updated January 26, 2010 Acc. 08-49, 08-60, 09-02 Bob Shuster

Updated May 18, 2010 Acc. 98-41

Updated June 22, 2010 10-41

Updated December 10, 2010 Bob Shuster Acc. 98-41, 10-20, 10-22, 10-25, 10-26, 10-27, 10-29, 10-31, 10-33, 10-34, 10-35, 10-38, 10-41, 10-44, 10-49, 10-51, 10-53, 10-58, 10-61, 10-62, 10-64, 10-65, 10-67, 10-69, 10-71, 10-74, 10-75, 10-76, 10-79, 10-84

Updated January 14,2011 Acc. 92-6 Bob Shuster

Updated August 17, 2011 Acc. 11-50 Bob Shuster

Updated March 7, 2012 Acc. 12-03 Paul Ericksen

Updated July 17, 2013 Acc. 13-19, 13-20 Bob Shuster

Updated October 6, 2015 Acc. 15-31 Bob Shuster

Updated May 17, 2017 Acc. 17-21 Bob Shuster

Updated November 29, 2017 Acc. 17-49, 17-50 Bob Shuster

Updated May 4, 2018 Acc. 18-15 Bob Shuster

Updated February 18, 2019 Acc. 19-02 Bob Shuster

Updated July 24, 2019 Acc. 19-25 Bob Shuster
Collection 074 Ephemera of Billy Graham
Bob Shuster
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Roman Script

Repository Details

Part of the Billy Graham Center Archives Repository

501 College Avenue
Wheaton IL 60187 US