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FCA mourns loss of Billy Graham

The evangelist knew the power of a coach's influence.

Published on February 21, 2018

by FCA

Along with millions around the world, FCA is mourning the death of Rev. Dr. Billy Graham, the legendary evangelist and servant. Graham died Wednesday at his home in Montreat, NC. He was 99.

FCA's family is also celebrating Graham's amazing life.

FCA was close to Graham's heart, and he understood the importance of the ministry's vision "to see the world impacted for Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes," stating at one time, "A coach can influence more people in one year than the average person in a lifetime." 

Graham also wrote on FCA's 50th anniversary in 2004, saying, "FCA has grown into the most extensive ministry of its type in the world. Through its outreach, it has touched countless thousands of young people and adults for Christ through their shared interest in athletics. Not only that, but through the example and witness of those individuals, FCA has influenced our whole nation for good."

"Without a doubt, no person has ever been a greater and more effective witness for Jesus Christ and addressed more people than Billy Graham," said Shane Williamson, FCA's CEO and President. "His powerful, yet always easy-to-understand, preaching and writings have brought untold millions to faith in God. Graham's tireless efforts to introduce the world to the importance of having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ have, in turn, inspired and encouraged FCA staff and volunteers all over America. 

"Dr. Graham's family has also been tremendously involved with FCA for decades. His daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, met her late husband, Dr. Danny Lotz, at an FCA camp, and their children have been FCA camp leaders for many years. Anne has frequently spoken to major FCA gatherings and Danny and his late brother, John, had both been inducted into FCA's Hall of Champions. We mourn Dr. Graham's passing yet salute him for living a godly life that truly modeled our Master, Jesus Christ."

William Franklin Graham Jr. was born Nov. 7, 1918, on a dairy farm to his missionary parents, Morrow Coffey and William Franklin Graham. Growing up during the Depression, he learned the value of hard work on the family farm, but he also found time to spend many hours in the hayloft reading books on a wide variety of subjects. He excelled as a baseball star and basketball player and dreamed of becoming a first baseman in the major leagues. At 15, he became a Christian and instead decided, as he said, to "go all out" and become a preacher. After many decades, his ministry exploded across the world, and through his crusades, broadcasts, books and the use of numerous types of media, Graham boldly and dynamically addressed an estimated two billion people worldwide. 

He chose to travel to far-flung locations — a total of 185 countries, even those hostile to Christianity — but his message was embraced wherever he went, and he became for many years one of the most admired people in the world. Graham declined to receive most honors and awards offered him but did accept the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He met with many heads of state across the globe and privately counseled every President since Harry Truman. Many called upon him for personal prayer in periods of national crisis.

Graham is survived by his five children: Gigi, Anne, Ruth, Franklin and Ned, 19 grandchildren and many great-grandchildren. His beloved wife, Ruth McCue Bell Graham, was a profound help to him in his ministry throughout the years; she died in 2007. Graham will be laid to rest next to her at the site of the Billy Graham Library in his hometown of Charlotte. 

Ordained in 1939 by a church in the Southern Baptist Convention, Graham graduated from Florida Bible Institute (now Trinity College in Florida) in 1940 with a Bachelor of Theology degree. In 1943, he graduated with a degree in anthropology from Wheaton College in Illinois and married Ruth, a fellow student and a daughter of a missionary surgeon.

After graduating from college, Graham pastored First Baptist Church in Western Springs, Ill., before joining Youth for Christ, an organization founded for ministry to youth and servicemen during World War II. He preached throughout the United States and in Europe in the post-war era, emerging as a rising young evangelist.

The Los Angeles Crusade in 1949 launched Graham into international prominence. Scheduled for three weeks, the meetings were extended to more than eight weeks, with overflow crowds filling a tent erected downtown each night. Many of his subsequent early crusades were similarly extended, including one in London that lasted 12 weeks, and a New York City crusade in Madison Square Garden in 1957, which ran nightly for 16 weeks.

In 1950, Graham founded the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), and until his death, served as Board Chairman Emeritus. BGEA, first headquartered in Minneapolis, then moved to Charlotte, exists to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ by every effective means and to equip others to do the same.

Throughout his career and ministry, Graham preached to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history — almost 215 million — through various meetings, including Mission World and Global Mission. Hundreds of millions more have been reached through television, video, film and webcasts.

In 2013, Graham had the vision for proclaiming the Gospel across North America, prompting the implementation of My Hope with Billy Graham, a grassroots evangelism outreach in the United States and Canada combining personal relationships with the power of modern media. The My Hope strategy encourages participants to reach out to people they already know and engage in meaningful conversation and connections as a catalyst for sharing the hope and love found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. At 94, Graham recorded a video message for the project, which was made available for use in homes across the nation as a tool for sharing the Gospel.

Graham's many impactful ministries include the weekly "Hour of Decision" radio program, broadcast around the world on Sundays for more than 60 years; television programs that are broadcast on national Christian networks; a syndicated newspaper column, "My Answer," which is carried by newspapers both nationally and internationally; and "Decision" magazine, the official publication of BGEA, with a circulation of more than 400,000. 

A prolific and inspirational writer, Graham wrote 33 books, many of which have become best sellers. His autobiography, "Just As I Am," published in 1997, appeared simultaneously on three top best-seller lists in one week. In it, Graham reflected on his life, including more than 70 years of ministry around the world. His most recent works were "The Reason for My Hope: Salvation" (2013), "The Heaven Answer Book" (2012), "Nearing Home" (2011) and "Storm Warning" (2010). 

Graham received numerous honorary doctorates from institutions in the US and abroad, and standout recognitions include the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation Freedom Award (2000); the Congressional Gold Medal (1996); the Templeton Foundation Prize for Progress in Religion (1982); and the Big Brother Award for his work on behalf of the welfare of children (1966). He was recognized by the National Conference of Christians and Jews in 1971 and by the Anti-Defamation League of the B'nai B'rith in 1969 for his efforts to foster a better understanding among all faiths. In 1964, he received the Speaker of the Year Award and was cited by the George Washington Carver Memorial Institute for his contributions to race relations.

He was regularly listed by the Gallup organization as one of the "Ten Most Admired Men in the World," making an unparalleled 57th appearance and 51st consecutive appearance in 2013. He was also featured on the covers of Time, Newsweek, Life, US News and World Report, Parade and numerous other magazines and has been the subject of many newspaper and magazine feature articles and books.

For more on the life, work and family of Billy Graham, visit BillyGraham.org