William Franklin “Billy” Graham, Jr. (November 7, 1918-February 21, 2018) was an American evangelical Christian evangelist, ordained as a Southern Baptist minister, who rose to celebrity status with national media backing of William Randolph Hearst and Henry Luce in 1949. His sermons were broadcast on radio and television.
Graham was notable for having been a spiritual adviser to 12 United States presidents. During the civil rights movement, he began to support integrated seating for his revivals and crusades. In 1957 he invited Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. to jointly preach at a huge revival in New York City, where they appeared together at Madison Square Garden, and bailed the minister out of jail in the 1960s when he was arrested in demonstrations.
Having built an evangelical empire and organized huge events worldwide, Graham personally preached the Gospel to more people than any other person in history. Throughout his life, Graham preached the gospel of Jesus Christ to some 215 million people who attended one of his more than 400 Crusades, simulcasts and evangelistic rallies in more than 185 countries and territories. He reached millions more through TV, video, film, the internet and 34 books. His institutions include a variety of media and publishing outlets.
With his renown and international travel, Graham appeared repeatedly on Gallup’s list of most admired men and women, and in 1999 was ranked as number seven for the 20th Century. He is buried at the Billy Graham Library next to his wife, Ruth, who died June 14, 2007.