Billy Graham Biography

Evangelist, Preacher, Founder of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

Billy Graham
Billy Graham delivers his farewell message. Jemal Countess / Staff / Getty Images

Billy Graham, known as "America's pastor," was born on November 7, 1918, and died on February 21, 2018, at age 99. Graham, who had suffered from ill health in recent years, passed away from natural causes at his home in Montreat, North Carolina.

Graham is best known for his worldwide evangelistic crusades preaching the message of Christianity to more people than anyone in history. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) reports, "nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries" have been reached through his ministry. In his lifetime, he has led many thousands to make a decision to receive Jesus as personal Savior and to live for Christ. Graham has been an adviser to many American presidents and, according to Gallup Polls, has been listed regularly as one of the "Ten Most Admired Men in the World."

Family and Home

Graham was raised on a dairy farm in Charlotte, North Carolina. In 1943 he married Ruth McCue Bell, daughter of a Christian missionary surgeon in China. He and Ruth had three daughters (including Anne Graham Lotz, Christian author and speaker), two sons (including Franklin Graham, who now runs his association), 19 grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren. In later years, Billy Graham made his home in the mountains of North Carolina. On June 14, 2007, he said farewell to his beloved Ruth when she passed away at age 87.

Education and Ministry

In 1934, at age 16, Graham made a personal commitment to Christ during a revival meeting conducted by Mordecai Ham. He graduated from the Florida Bible Institute, now Trinity College of Florida and was ordained in 1939 by a church in the Southern Baptist Convention. Later in 1943, he graduated from Wheaton College, pastored the First Baptist Church in Western Springs, Illinois, and then joined Youth for Christ.

In this post-war era, as he preached in the United States and Europe, Graham was soon acknowledged as a rising young evangelist. In 1949, an extended 8-week crusade in Los Angeles gained international recognition for Graham.

In 1950 Graham founded the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which later relocated in 2003 to Charlotte, North Carolina. The ministry has included:

  • The weekly “Hour of Decision” radio broadcast.
  • Televised crusade specials approximately six times a year.
  • “My Answer,” international newspaper column.
  • Decision Magazine, the official BGEA publication.
  • World Wide Pictures, one of the foremost producers of evangelistic films in the world.

Billy Graham the Author

Billy Graham authored more than 30 books, many of which have been translated into several languages. They include:

  • The Reason for My Hope: Salvation (2013)
  • Nearing Home (2011)
  • Storm Warnings (2010)
  • Wisdom For Each Day (2008)
  • The Journey (2006)
  • Hope for Each Day (2002)
  • Just As I Am (Autobiography - 1997)
  • Hope for the Troubled Heart (1991)
  • Facing Death and the Life After (1987
  • Approaching Hoofbeats: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1983)
  • Till Armageddon (1981)
  • The Holy Spirit (1978)
  • How to Be Born Again (1977)
  • Angels: God's Secret Agents (1975)
  • The Jesus Generation (1971)


  • The Congressional Gold Medal.
  • The Templeton Foundation Prize for Progress in Religion.
  • The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation Freedom Award.
  • The Big Brother of the Year Award.
  • Cited by George Washington Carver Memorial Institute for contributions to race relations.
  • Recognized by Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith and National Conference of Christians and Jews for efforts to foster better understanding among faiths.
  • Inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1999.

More of Billy Graham's Accomplishments

  • On September 14, 2001, he led a national prayer service for the 9/11 attacks at Washington National Cathedral.
  • He was presented with honorary knighthood (KBE) in December 2001.
  • He presided over the graveside services for president Lyndon Johnson in 1973.
  • He spoke at the funeral of President Richard Nixon in 1994.
  • Graham was unable to officiate the funeral of Ronald Reagan on June 11, 2004, after hip replacement surgery.
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Fairchild, Mary. "Billy Graham Biography." Learn Religions, Aug. 27, 2020, Fairchild, Mary. (2020, August 27). Billy Graham Biography. Retrieved from Fairchild, Mary. "Billy Graham Biography." Learn Religions. (accessed June 8, 2023).