World-famous evangelist Billy Graham has held four crusades in Georgia—one in Augusta, in 1948, and three in Atlanta, in 1950, 1973, and 1994. Each of these large revivals drew thousands of people from across the South.
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.
That same year Graham brought his crusade to Atlanta for the first time. The six-week revival was held at Ponce de Leon Ballpark (then home to the minor-league baseball team the Atlanta Crackers) and lasted from October to December. Graham’s opening service on Sunday, October 29, drew an estimated 25,000 people, the largest crowd that had ever assembled to hear him preach. (Earlier that year, a crowd of 17,000 heard him speak in Portland, Oregon.) Graham later credited the 1950 Atlanta crusade with teaching him a lesson that helped to keep his ministry largely above financial reproach, while other evangelists experienced scandals: a picture of a grinning Graham appeared next to a photograph of ushers handling bags of money collected from services in the ballpark. “I said, 'That’ll never happen again,'” Graham recalled in a 1992 interview. From that time, he said, he never accepted another “love offering” but assembled a board of businessmen to oversee his ministry and put himself and his staff on salary.
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. According to Graham, Carter later reported that no fewer than 565 people attended the film screening.
In 1973 Graham returned to Atlanta for a six-night crusade at Atlanta