Billy Graham through the decades
On Tuesday, Billy Graham will mark his 99th birthday.
Born just days before the end of World War I, Graham rarely leaves his mountaintop home in Montreat anymore. He can’t hear or see very well. He doesn’t talk much. And his last crusade, in New York City, was 12 years ago.
But this Charlotte-born evangelist still matters. Here are five signs that testify to that truth.
1. He just got his own channel on satellite radio.
“The Billy Graham Channel” debuted Monday on Sirius XM. It’ll be available through Nov. 17 on Channel 145 on satellite and via streaming.
Launched in celebration of his birthday, this limited-run channel will include many of Graham’s sermons and motivational messages as well as personal reflections from family and friends and remarks from five U.S. presidents, from Jimmy Carter to George W. Bush.
2. He’s featured in an exhibit or two at the new Museum of the Bible.
Located three blocks from the U.S. Capitol in Washington, the 430,000-square-foot museum will open Nov. 17. Visitors will see several items spotlighting Graham, including magazine covers, newspaper headlines, photos and favorite Bibles.
Graham, who preached the Bible in the White House and all over the world, will also be part of an exhibit about the impact the Bible had on the Civil Rights Movement.
3. He’s being written about in new books.
In “Billy Graham: American Pilgrim,” a group of A-list scholars offers fresh insights on Graham’s impact on everything from American Christianity to the Cold War to religious media.
And in “The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America,” Pulitzer Prize-winning author Frances Fitzgerald gives Graham his own chapter – and more. Writing about the 1950s, she notes that “Graham struck a chord that resonated throughout the country” and that “his craggy profile remained as well known as those on Mount Rushmore.”
4. He’s a character in at least two new movies.
“Steve McQueen: American Icon,” a documentary feature from Christian pastor Greg Laurie, tells the story of how the famous actor died at age 50 clutching a Bible – one given to him by Graham during a secret visit during his last days.
And in an upcoming sequel to “Unbroken,” the film about Olympic athlete and POW Louie Zamperini, Graham will be portrayed by his own grandson, Will Graham, who’s also an evangelist in real life. The movie will show how the shell-shocked Zamerini found Christianity and peace at Graham’s famous 1949 crusade in Los Angeles.
5. Chaplains under his banner are fanning out to help traumatized cities and towns.
On Monday, chaplains on the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team headed to Sutherland Springs, Texas – site of the massacre of 26 people during a Sunday morning service at the First Baptist Church.
The Charlotte-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association – a group started by Graham in 1950 – has also sent chaplains to minister to people in other cities, including Las Vegas and New York City, that are still reeling from mass killings.
This list doesn’t even count Graham’s “My Answer” column, which is still being published in the Observer and about 200 other newspapers. Or his Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, which has had over 1 million visitors and plans a special exhibit every month on the road to Graham’s 100th birthday.
And move over, Charlotte’s Billy Graham Parkway: In honor of Graham’s birthday, the city of Cleveland, Tenn., will name an extended part of 15th Street after the evangelist on Tuesday.
Next time you’re there, look for “Billy Graham Avenue.”