91. Billy Graham: Evangelist and Civil Rights Advocate



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William Franklin "Billy" Graham Jr. is an American evangelist, who is an ordained Baptist minister, and celebrity. He is one of the first televangelists because of his extensive use of television to spread the word of god throughout the world. He rose to celebrity status in 1949 by reaching out to the middle-class white American population through radio, then television. It is estimated that Graham's sermons have reached a total of more than 2.2 billion people worldwide. He is credited with converting more than 3.2 million Americans to Christianity through his broadcasts.

Born on November 7, 1918, Graham grew up in a dairy farm near Charlotte, North Carolina. His parents were of Scottish descent, and were practicing Presbyterians. Graham's education included attending several colleges before settling on what is now Trinity College in Florida. It was there that Graham heard the calling of Jesus Christ, and began devoting his life to spreading the word of god.

Graham served as spiritual advisor to several presidents, including, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, and Lyndon Johnson. He was a friend to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. whom he invited on more than one occasion to preach at his ministries. He once bailed King out of jail after the civil rights leader was jailed for participating in a peaceful demonstration.

One of Graham's most powerful tools was his crusades. He began staging evangelical events at arenas and auditoriums to spread the word of god. He was one of the first preachers to invite black clergymen to participate in his crusades. He was also a champion of integration. In one famous incident, Graham went into the audience to remove barriers that were set up to segregate blacks from whites. He told the organizers that they either remove the barriers, or they can stage their event without him. Graham was a man of high moral character.

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