Billy Graham Crusades
Graham grew up on a dairy farm in Charlotte, North Carolina. In 1939 he was ordained by a church in the Southern Baptist Convention and went on to attend the Florida Bible Institute (later Trinity College) in Trinity, Florida. After becoming active in the ministerial organization Youth for Christ and leading increasingly popular evangelical missions, he founded the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in 1950.
In 1966 Graham contacted local officials and clergymen in Americus to solicit their help in organizing an evangelistic outreach program for the city. Community members objected to Graham's stipulation that the meetings be integrated, however, and none stepped forward to sponsor the program. Graham was prepared to cancel his plans when Jimmy Carter, then a state senator, volunteered to help. Because local churches refused to allow an integrated film screening, Carter arranged to host the program in the basement of an abandoned school building.
In 1973 Graham returned to Atlanta for a six-night crusade at Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium, which drew nightly audiences of between 35,000 and 44,000 people. The civil rights leaders Ralph Abernathy and Hosea Williams urged blacks to boycott the Graham crusade, and picketers, charging Graham with racism because of his refusal to affirm the U.S. Supreme Court's 1972 banning of the death penalty, protested at the stadium. But the Reverend Martin Luther King Sr. sat on the platform with Graham and led a prayer one night. When Graham again took the pulpit in Atlanta for his 1994 services, Atlantans turned out in record numbers. The five evening meetings, held in the Georgia Dome in late October, attracted an estimated 311,000 people.
Billy Graham, Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham ([San Francisco]: HarperSanFrancisco; [Grand Rapids, Mich.]: Zondervan, 1997).
Gayle C. White, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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