10 things you didn't know about Billy Graham

If you didn't grow up listening to Billy Graham's Sunday radio show or watching his TV show -- you might not know the...

Posted: Feb 21, 2018 2:47 PM
Updated: Feb 21, 2018 2:47 PM

If you didn't grow up listening to Billy Graham's Sunday radio show or watching his TV show -- you might not know the ubiquitous Christian televangelist from the WWE wrestler.

Outside of being the "pastor to the presidents," Graham -- who died Wednesday at the age of 99 -- was one of the first Christian preachers to harness the power of media to spread his religion's message.

Here are 10 facts about the man known as the "Protestant Pope":

1. Billy Graham once preached for more than 100 nights straight

Every night for 16 consecutive weeks, Billy Graham addressed the sold-out audiences in New York's Madison Square Garden at his so-called New York Crusade in 1957. The event was only supposed to last for six weeks.

2. He's met with 12 post-war presidents

From Harry Truman to Barack Obama, Billy Graham knew them all -- attending the inaugurations of six presidents and delivering the invocations for two: George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

3. He helped George W. Bush stop drinking

In his 2010 book "Decision Points," former President George W. Bush said he was actually drunk when he first met Graham at his parents' family home in Maine in 1985. The two talked extensively the next day and later, Graham sent Bush a Bible and that he said helped him to better understand Christianity and change his life.

4. He apologized for anti-Semitic remarks caught on tape with President Nixon

In March 2002, tapes were released of private conversations between President Nixon and Graham in 1973, in which Graham joins Nixon in making anti-Semitic remarks. Graham later apologized.

5. His preaching has been heard in nearly every country

Billy Graham's preaching has been heard in more than 185 of the world's 195 countries, to 215 million people.

6. More than a million people came to see him on one day

On June 3, 1973, an estimated 1.1 million people attended the final day of a five-day crusade in Seoul, South Korea -- the largest single turnout for a Billy Graham rally. More than 3.2 million attended the entire crusade, the largest gathering he's ever had.

7. Mormonism no longer a "cult" after Romney meeting

After Graham met with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney -- a Mormon -- at his mountaintop retreat in 2012, the Billy Graham Evangelical Association removed a reference on its website that said Mormonism was a cult. The association's chief of staff Ken Barun explained that the reference was scrubbed "because we do not wish to participate in a theological debate about something that has become politicized during this campaign."

8. He was a registered Democrat

Despite his conservative views, Billy Graham told Katie Couric in 2005 that he was a registered Democrat, adding that it doesn't determine the candidates he supports. "I'm for whoever the best candidate is," he said.

9. He's converted more than 3 million people

While the actual number is unknown, at least 3.2 million people have decided to convert to evangelical Christianity as a result of his preaching, according to William Martin's book, "A Prophet With Honor: The Billy Graham Story."

10. Preaching kept him away from the birth of his first child

Billy Graham missed the birth of his first child, Virginia, known as Gigi, in 1945 because he was away on a preaching trip. In his autobiography "Just As I Am," Graham talked about the sacrifices his wife Ruth made raising the couple's five children. "What I missed!" he wrote. "And what Ruth missed by not having me to help her. Whenever I did get home, I got a crash course in the agony and ecstasy of parenting. If Ruth had not been convinced that God had called her to fulfill that side of our partnership and had not resorted constantly to God's Word for instruction and to His grace for strength, I don't see how she could have survived."

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