Evangelist Billy Graham dies at 99
Billy Graham, one of the most prolific and well-known evangelists of the 20th and 21st centuries, died Feb. 21 at his home. He was 99.
Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Seminary, says, “The eyes of a North Carolina farm boy sparkled as never before this morning when Billy Graham entered heaven. After nearly 100 years spent largely in an effort to ‘rescue the perishing and care for the dying,’ the world’s evangelist was called home to a prophet’s reward. Looking at his life, convert Stuart Hamblen expressed well the truth when he wrote, ‘It is no secret what God can do.’”
Graham preached the Gospel to more people in live audiences than anyone else in recorded history—nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories—through various preaching opportunities and evangelistic crusades. Hundreds of millions more were reached through television, video, film and webcasts. As a result of being exposed to the Good News of Jesus Christ, hundreds of thousands of individuals responded to Graham’s invitation to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Graham once summarized his ministry thusly: “My one purpose in life is to help people find a personal relationship with God, which, I believe, comes through knowing Christ.”
Graham’s ministry spanned seven decades. In addition to leading evangelistic crusades, he wrote numerous books, hosted a weekly radio program, wrote a syndicated newspaper column, and founded the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which continues to extend Graham’s efforts to reach the world with the Gospel.
Graham visited Southwestern Seminary multiple times since the 1950s, encouraging students to remain diligent in their walks with the Lord and to be wary of attacks from the enemy. During an “Emphasis on Evangelism” in December 1961, Graham said he owed a great deal to Southwestern alumni who had been an inspiration and challenge to him as he traveled all over the world. “The balance of evangelism and academic at Southwestern is unmatched in the whole world,” he said.
Mathena Hall, the newest building on Southwestern’s campus, features a Billy Graham classroom, which was funded by Don Haley and Letitia Haley Baker of Haley-Greer, Inc. The room highlights the worldwide reach of Graham’s ministry through photographs, articles, books, awards and personal letters.
“Billy Graham was as notable for his life as for his message,” Patterson says. “Never accused of the hoarding of wealth or of sexual misconduct, his careful practices of conduct place him in a category of a man whose life was a proclamation of Christ as well as his message. For young preachers everywhere, his faithfulness to the proclamation of God’s plan of redemption—undergirded by his exemplary life, his initiatives on racial justice, and his concern for the lost—set the standard for all who would attempt to preach the riches of the Gospel.
“Billy Graham lived what he preached and preached what he lived. His allegiance to sacred Scripture was legendary. Never did he allow doubt to shake his confidence in God’s Word. Today, we all stand on the shoulders of this great prophet to the nations. I join with millions around the globe in expressing gratitude to God for the life of this man of God.”
Graham was preceded in death by his wife, Ruth, in 2007. He is survived by their children, Virginia, Anne, Ruth, Franklin, and Nelson.
Several of Graham’s chapel sermons may be found in Southwestern’s digital archive here.