Resources on Billy Graham
Materials by or about Billy Graham are found across multiple collections at the Archives. Users can locate these items by searching the collections database or by consulting an Archives staff member for more information. Significant collections are listed below:
- Collection 6: Papers of John Pollack. The author of Billy Graham: The Authorized Biography, Pollack's papers contain manuscripts, revisions, notes, and bibliographies documenting his research process on the life and ministry of Billy Graham.
- Collection 8: Records of Christianity Today. Records describe the founding of the Christianity Today by Billy Graham in 1956 and its creation or acquisition of other publications such as Campus Life, Leadership, Leadership 100, Partnership, and Your Church. Besides material on the editing, publishing and distribution of these periodicals, the files also contain much information on evangelical viewpoints on theological, political, and cultural issues in American society from the 1950s on. The organization's involvement in the 1966 World Congress on Evangelism, the Key '73 evangelistic campaign, and the 1974 International Congress on World Evangelization is also documented.
- Collection 15: Papers of Billy Graham. A small collection of correspondence, sermon transcripts, and memorabilia.
- Collection 74: Ephemera of Billy Graham. A collection of correspondence, oral history interviews, audio/video materials, photographs, and oversize materials documenting Billy Graham's family history, education at Wheaton College, work as an evangelist, and influence as a public figure.
- Collection 285: Papers of Torrey Johnson. President and founder of Youth for Christ, Torrey's papers include materials documenting Billy Graham's early ministry as a YFC evangelist and ventures into religious broadcasting with Songs in the Night.
- Collection 590: Papers of John Stott. Collection documents Stott's work with the Lausanne Movement, including frequent collaboration with Billy Graham and the BGEA.
- Collection 659: Papers of Roy Gustafson. Materials document Gustafson’s education and life’s work as a minister, evangelist, Bible teacher, and staff member of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Particularly well documented are the tours of the Holy Land (Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt) he led for several decades, his participation in ministries in Africa and Asia, and his active involvement in the worldwide activities of Samaritan’s Purse.
- Collection 675: Papers of John Minder. Materials document the ministry of Christian and Missionary Alliance pastor John Minder about his mentorship of Billy Graham while Graham was a student at Florida Bible Institute (FBI) and about their continuing friendship.
Further Resources on Billy Graham
- Browse a Chronology of Major Events in the life of Billy Graham and the BGEA.
- Read the Wheaton College obituary for Dr. Graham.
- View a Glossary of Terms used in the BGEA's evangelistic ministry.
- Join the staff of the Archives on a walking tour of Billy Graham's Wheaton.
Biography of Billy Graham and The BGEA
The following biography was prepared by the staff of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center Archives and is intended to provide a basic context for materials in Billy Graham-related collections held at the Archives.
William Franklin Graham, Jr., known as Billy Graham to most of the world, was born on November 7, 1918, near Charlotte, North Carolina, to William Franklin and Morrow Coffey Graham. Billy was the first of four children, followed by Catherine, Melvin, and Jean. In 1919 he was baptized as an infant by sprinkling at Chalmers Memorial Church. William Franklin, Sr., was a successful farmer and businessman. Both parents were Christians and the family regularly attended the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. In 1934, evangelist Mordecai Fowler Ham began preaching at a series of revival meetings in Charlotte, stirring up considerable controversy at the local high school with his charges of moral laxity. Billy attended the meetings, partly attracted by the controversy. While listening to Ham’s preaching, Billy felt convicted of his own sin and committed his life to Christ.
By the fall of 1936, Graham had begun to consider his future career, settling on Christian ministry of some kind, and enrolled at Bob Jones College, a Fundamentalist school in Cleveland, Tennessee. Unable to adjust to campus life, he left Bob Jones after only a few months and transferred to Florida Bible Institute (now Trinity College) in January 1937. Graham graduated from FBI in 1940 with a BTh (Bachelor of Theology degree). During his studies at FBI, Graham became convinced that he should be baptized by immersion as an adult, and Rev. John Minder, vice-president of FBI, presided at his baptism. Graham began preaching on street corners and at rescue missions and small churches. While leading a series of meetings at the Peniel Baptist Church in East Palatka, Florida in December 1938, he was baptized again by the church's pastor, Rev. Cecil Underwood (a Southern Baptist), in Silver Lake. Graham agreed to the baptism in order to join the Southern Baptists, beginning his life-long membership in the Southern Baptist Convention. In February 1940, Cecil Underwood and other local pastors presided over Graham’s ordination as a Southern Baptist minister in the St. John’s River Association.
While still in Florida, Graham met family members of V. Raymond Edman, president of Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. Impressed with his preaching abilities and evident Christian character, they praised Graham’s character to Edman, who arranged for him to attend Wheaton College. Graham matriculated at Wheaton in 1940 and graduated in 1943 with a BA in anthropology. While a student, Graham continued to hone his preaching skills, serving as pastor of the United Gospel Tabernacle in downtown Wheaton and taking preaching engagements across Chicago and the Midwest.
At Wheaton, Graham met fellow student Ruth Bell, the daughter of the Southern Presbyterian missionary and surgeon, L. Nelson Bell. Since 1916, the Bells were stationed in China, and Ruth spent her childhood between her parents’ mission in Qingjiangpu and boarding school in Korea. Billy and Ruth married after graduating from Wheaton on August 13, 1943, stepping immediately into Graham’s first (and last) pastorate at the Village Church in the Chicago suburb of Western Springs. He served a little over a year.
During his pastorate in Western Springs, Graham ventured into religious radio, taking over Songs in the Night from Chicago-area pastor Torrey Johnson. Graham preached on the program every Sunday evening and persuaded George Beverly Shea, a popular Christian soloist, to join him.
Songs in the Night was only a few months old, however, when Graham left it and the Village Church to become vice president of Youth for Christ. A nation-wide evangelistic movement focused on young people and servicemen in the mid-1940s, Youth for Christ was known for its enthusiastic and unconventional rallies. Torrey Johnson organized the Chicago-area meetings, recruiting Graham as a guest preacher.
In 1945, the local Youth for Christ chapters scattered throughout the country consolidated to form one organization under Johnson’s leadership. Johnson then officially hired Graham as YFC’s traveling representative. For the next four years, Graham traveled throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe, speaking at rallies and organizing YFC chapters. His two European tours in 1946 and 1947-48 were particularly significant, shaping Graham’s vision for planning and advertising later evangelistic campaigns. The 1947-48 tour was also Graham’s first extended collaboration with song leader Cliff Barrows.
In Youth for Christ, as at Wheaton College, Graham continued to impress both individuals and large crowds with his sincerity, personal attractiveness, and colorful preaching. In turn, Graham’s association with Wheaton and YFC introduced him to many individuals who later became significant leaders in the evangelical community and assist Graham in ministry. As Graham began to hold his own evangelistic rallies, his work for YFC gradually tapered off, and in 1948 he resigned from the staff, although he remained an active friend of the organization and served on its board of directors for some time after.
In 1947, William Bell Riley, the founder and president of Northwestern Schools in Minneapolis, met with Graham to ask him to be his successor as head of the institution. Graham was initially reluctant, but Riley persuaded him. Riley died in December of the same year, and Graham became president. Several of the staff and faculty at Northwestern later transferred to Graham's evangelistic organization.
While president of Northwestern Schools, Graham continued to hold his own evangelistic rallies across the country (The first was in his hometown of Charlotte in 1947), working regularly with soloist George Beverly Shea, choir director and master of ceremonies Cliff Barrows (whom he met in 1945), and associate evangelist Grady Wilson. (Grady and his brother, T. W. were Graham’s boyhood friends).
While Graham became increasingly well-known in fundamentalist and evangelical circles, he rose suddenly to national prominence in November 1949 when a local underworld figure and famous disc jockey converted under Graham’s preaching during the Christ for Greater Los Angeles campaign. For reasons unknown, newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst ordered his publications to "puff Graham," and other newspapers around the country followed suit. The campaign, originally planned for three weeks, was extended another month. Following the LA meetings, Graham traveled to Boston for a series of campaigns, again with spectacular results. Graham’s public profile only increased after meeting publishing mogul Henry Luce in Columbia, South Carolina. Luce, so impressed with the charismatic young evangelist, he commissioned articles on Graham for his magazines, Time and Life.
Over the next decade, Graham held evangelistic campaigns in major U.S. cities, as well as rallies in Africa, Asia, South America, and Europe, becoming something of an institutional symbol of evangelical Christianity for much of the public. The most seminal meetings of Graham’s early career were the Greater London Crusade of 1954 and the New York Crusade of 1957.
From early in his ministry, Graham and his associates were sensitive to public perceptions of traveling preachers. The figure of fictional con-man Elmer Gantry still loomed large in frequent criticisms of evangelists and revival meetings. As early as 1948, Graham, Barrows, Shea, and Grady Wilson devised a philosophy of ministry (later called the Modesto Manifesto), which outlined their personal pledge to evade the moral ambiguity and scandals that had embroiled previous evangelists. Specifically, the Manifesto committed to avoid any appearance of financial abuse, shun even the appearance of sexual impropriety (Graham made it a point not to travel or meet alone with any woman other than his wife), to cooperate with any local churches willing to participate in united evangelism efforts, and to be honest and reliable in their publicity and reporting of results.
With the rapid growth of his ministry, Billy and Ruth, along with Cliff Barrows, Grady Wilson, and George Wilson (a co-worker from YFC and Northwestern Schools), incorporated the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) in 1950. At the same time, Graham began his weekly radio program, The Hour of Decision. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the BGEA staff planned and coordinated evangelistic meetings and other activities for Graham and his associate evangelists. The BGEA eventually established offices in cities around the world, including Sydney, Buenos Aires, Winnipeg, London, Paris, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Moscow, and Mexico City. In 2002, the international office relocated from Minneapolis to Charlotte, North Carolina. Besides its work in evangelism, the BGEA or its subsidiaries, including Grason Company and World Wide Pictures, published periodicals (the color tabloid Decision was prepared in six languages and Braille), books, phonograph records, and audio tapes, as well as produced a variety of media programs, including films, videos, radio and television programs, websites, webcasts, etc.
The heart of the BGEA’s work remained evangelistic meetings. Graham formed a team of ministry partners who worked with local communities to plan, execute, and provide follow-up support for each crusade. Most original BGEA staff members were drawn either from North Carolina, YFC, or Northwestern Schools, where Graham served as President until 1952. Besides Barrows, Shea, Grady Wilson, and George Wilson, other significant team members included: public relations director Gerald Beavan, associate evangelists T. W. Wilson, Leighton Ford, Ralph Bell, Joseph Blinco, Akbar Abdul-Haqq, Roy Gustafson, Howard O. Jones, Lane Adams, and John Wesley White; pianist Tedd Smith, organists Don Hustad and Paul Mickelson; crusade directors Willis Haymaker, Walter H. Smyth and Sterling Huston. Henry Holley became the main staff member responsible for evangelistic campaigns in Asia.
In the early 1950s, the Navigators, another evangelistic movement, developed a follow-up and counseling system for converts evangelistic meetings and worked as volunteers to implement their program at BGEA crusades. By the late 1950s, Charles Rigg left the Navigators to oversee crusade counseling and follow-up for the BGEA. After 1957, Graham generally held three to five crusades a year, while the number of meetings held by the associate evangelists varied more widely. BGEA associate evangelists led crusades in smaller cities and towns or even in single churches. Some associates specialized in different parts of the world. Akbar Haqq and Robert Cunville, for example, regularly held meetings in India and Howard Jones in Africa. All the associate evangelists, however, also held meetings in both the United States and international cities.
From 1964 to 1976, the crusade team was based in Atlanta, Georgia, before relocating to Charlotte, North Carolina, and the name of the department changed from "Team Office" to "Field Ministries" in the late 1980s. Decision magazine reported on all of BGEA crusades, and national television stations often broadcast hour-long featurettes from major crusades, usually several months after the crusade closed.
During major US or international crusades, Graham would preach to hundreds of thousands or even millions of people. As a rule, the BGEA only held crusades in cities which issued an invitation by a large number of local clergy and laypeople, although the BGEA routinely received more invitations than it could accept. BGEA staff members meticulously investigated each invitation to determine if there was wide support for a crusade, before accepting any invitations.
Each crusade required months of preparation to plan and execute. BGEA crusade directors and staff worked with a local executive committee (incorporated as a separate entity), setting up subordinate committees; recruiting choir members, ushers, counselors, and others; making arrangements for the auditorium or stadium; overseeing publicity, etc. In general, local volunteers prepared for the meetings under the guidance of BGEA staff who followed a procedure developed in hundreds of such crusades. The services themselves consisted of music by the volunteer choir, a personal testimony from a well-known figure, an offertory, musical solos by George Beverly Shea and/or other singers, followed by the sermon and invitation. Individuals who came forward at the invitation (called inquirers), whether to pray for salvation, renew their Christian commitment, or ask for more information, were directed to volunteer counselors and eventually connected with a cooperating pastor in the community. Inquirers later received a workbook through the mail to guide them as they began personal Bible study.
In 1962, acting on the suggestions of Lane Adams and businessman Lowell Berry, the BGEA began to investigate the possibility of holding seminars in conjunction with crusades. These seminars, aimed at seminary students, would provide future ministers with a theoretical and experiential understanding of mass evangelism. The program officially launched during the 1962 Chicago crusade when twenty young men from seven seminaries participated. The trial programs were enthusiastically received, and the School of Evangelism (SOE) became a regular component of major crusades. The School’s aim changed slightly over the years as the focus shifted from students to pastors, although others could attend as well. A typical School consisted of a series of seminars and lectures on various aspects of practical evangelism. The speakers were members of the BGEA or individuals closely associated with it. For many years, the Schools were only held in conjunction with a crusade, but in the 1980's the Billy Graham Center and the Cove both hosted independent School of Evangelism trainings.
As mentioned above, the Hour of Decision radio program was one of the BGEA’s first evangelistic projects. In the beginning, Cliff Barrows served as announcer, Jerry Beavan reported on Graham's evangelistic campaigns, George Beverly Shea provided musical solos, and Grady Wilson read a biblical passage, followed by a message from Graham. Although the format and participants varied some over the years, the heart of the program remained Graham's sermon, which often took its starting point from current events. Occasionally, an associate evangelist, such as Leighton Ford, gave the message. One hundred fifty stations on the ABC network carried the first broadcast. The first year on the air brought in over 178,000 pieces of mail, and the number steadily rose every year. By 1970, over 1,200 stations worldwide carried the program to an estimated audience of tens of millions. Cliff Barrows later supervised program production, assisted by John Lenning. Lee Fischer helped prepare many of Graham's radio messages in the 1950s and 1960s, followed by Robert Ferm and John Akers.
Besides producing a radio show, the BGEA was also as affiliated with radio stations in North Carolina and in Hawaii. Started by the Christian Broadcasting Association after World War II, KAIM FM and AM in Hawaii became a BGEA affiliate in 1959. WFGW AM and WMIT FM in North Carolina were launched by the BGEA and owned by the Blue Ridge Broadcasting Corporation, a BGEA subsidiary. Programming for both stations included many religious shows aimed at a general audience.
From 1951 to 1954, Hour of Decision also existed as a television show produced by Walter F. Bennett and Company. The HOD television show followed a similar format to the radio program, filmed in a studio and including special guests. After Hour of Decision went off the air in 1954, the BGEA did very little with the medium until Graham’s 1957 New York Crusade, when it broadcast one-hour television segments from Madison Square Garden. From 1957 onward, it was the BGEA’s standard practice to broadcast three to five programs from the same crusade on consecutive nights. These programs were edited tape, not live, usually aired nationally several months after the end of the actual crusade. The BGEA broadcasted several such series each year, and apart from a few specials, these series remained the BGEA's television approach to mass evangelism. After each program, viewers were encouraged to write the BGEA with questions, testimonies, and prayer requests. Later, the BGEA added a telephone counseling line for viewers.
In 1949, Billy Graham met Dick Ross, owner of Great Commission Films, who produced a documentary film on Graham’s Portland campaign the following year. The films was so successful that the BGEA purchased Great Commission Films and used the assets of the company to launch The Billy Graham Evangelistic Film Ministry, incorporated in Maryland in 1952 with Ross as its first president. Though the company was generally known as World Wide Pictures (WWP) from its inception, this name was not legalized until 1980. Dedicated to producing films centered on BGEA crusades, many films combined either dramatic or real conversion stories with scenes from an actual crusade, including portions of a sermon by Graham. WWP filmed Mr. Texas, its first production, during the 1951 Fort Worth Crusade and released it at the conclusion of the Hollywood Bowl Crusade. Other feature films followed, including For Pete's Sake, The Restless Ones, The Hiding Place, and Joni. While WWP’s distribution office remained next door to the BGEA headquarters in Minneapolis, the company acquired a production studio and offices in Burbank, California, to house filming, in-house editing, and other technical work. William Brown became the company's president in 1970, a position he held until 1988 when the BGEA consolidated all WWP operations into the Minneapolis offices. BGEA offices in other countries assisted in distributing the films around the world. Most films were distributed to churches and other religious groups but occasionally to theaters for the general public. By the early 2000s, the BGEA limited production to special projects, although WWP still distributed earlier productions around the world.
In 1958, the BGEA hired Sherwood Wirt as editor of Decision magazine, another media branch of the BGEA. Aimed at a general audience, Decision contained Bible stories, Christian living articles, brief news items, tales from church history, and features on recent crusades. Robert Ferm, Graham's personal assistant, served as co-editor of the publication and represented the evangelist's viewpoint. The first issue appeared in November 1960. Eventually, the BGEA issued separate Spanish, French, and German editions, as well as special Australian and British versions of the publication. Apart from the Spanish edition, the other versions became independent magazines, and by 1988, the BGEA only published Decision in English and Spanish. In 1976, Roger Palms succeeded Wirt as editor. Published for years in tabloid size, the production team remodeled Decision to a smaller format in 1985. By 1988, the circulation was approximately two million.
In January 1952, the BGEA incorporated the Grason Company (started by Billy Graham and George Wilson) to publish and distribute books, records, music, and other evangelistic materials. The company produced the bulk of materials the BGEA distributed to crusade inquirers, as well as mail or telephone requests. All retail sales benefited the BGEA, and World Wide Publications oversaw any wholesale transactions
The BGEA established various offices in the United States. Except for the period from 1964 to 1976, when the Team Office relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, the organization's main office was in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In the 1980s, organization executives included a director of foreign crusades, a director for Graham's United States crusades (sometimes the same person), and a director of associate evangelists’ crusades. Associate evangelists generally also had an office at their homes. The Minneapolis office was also home to Decision, Grason, and Wide Publications, and the World Wide Pictures distribution office, as well as the counseling staff who answered thousands of letters Graham received every year from people seeking advice and comfort. The Minneapolis office also handled the BGEA's massive mailing list, its financial operations and public relations. Most of these operations were under the executive vice-president of the BGEA, who was generally in charge of administrative and business matters. From 1964 to 1976, the office of the vice president for crusades was located in Atlanta. When that office closed, the staff moved back to Minneapolis. Another BGEA office opened in Washington, DC in 1956, but closed not long afterwards.
The other major United States office was in Montreat, North Carolina, near the Graham family home. The Montreat staff arranged Graham’s appointments, traveling schedule, sermons, and other responsibilities and oversaw a large reference library on evangelism and preaching. From 1950-1965, Luverne Gustavson worked as Graham’s personal secretary. Following Gustavson’s retirement, Stephanie Wills took over the role, serving throughout most of Graham’s later ministry from 1975 until his death. Graham’s close advisor and associate evangelist, T. W. Wilson, also had his office in Montreat. Following Wilson retirement in 2005, David Bruce became Graham’s executive assistant.
A number of BGEA affiliates existed outside of the United States to oversee BGEA-related activities, including premiering BGEA films; broadcasting radio and television programs where appropriate; producing the national version of Decision, if there was one; and coordinating crusades in that country, etc. At one time, the BGEA had affiliates in Great Britain (1955), Mexico, Canada (1954), Germany (1963), Japan (1967), Argentina, Australia (1959), France, and Hong Kong (1972). In the 1980s, many of affiliate offices closed down or greatly decreased their activities.
Besides evangelism, radio, television, and films, Graham published many books, including Calling Youth to Christ (1947), Revival in Our Times (1950), America's Hour of Decision (1951), Peace With God (1953), The Secret of Happiness (1955), World Aflame (1965), The Challenge (1969), The Jesus Generation (1971), Angels: God's Secret Agents (1975), How To Be Born Again (1977), The Holy Spirit: Activating God's Power in Your Life (1980), Till Armageddon: A Perspective on Suffering (1981), Armageddon Hoof beats: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1983), Facing Death and the Life After (1987), Answers to Life's Problems (1988), Hope for the Troubled Heart (1991), Storm Warning (1992), Journey: How to Live By Faith in an Uncertain World (2006), Nearing Home (2011) The Reason for My Hope (2013), and Where I am Now: Heaven, Eternity, and Our Life Beyond (2015). In 1997, he published his autobiography, Just As I Am. An updated version was published in 2007. Graham also wrote a vast number of articles, evangelistic tracts, and a long-running syndicated newspaper column, "My Answer."
Throughout his career, Graham experienced a range of criticism, with varying degrees of intensity. Criticism generally fell into four different categories: Fundamentalists accused him of "ecumenical evangelism," that is, corrupting his message by accepting help and support from “pseudo-Christians.” Liberal Christians often wrote that he focused too much on evangelism while neglecting issues of social justice. Other critics accused the crusades of being mechanical spectacles that manipulated people through emotionalism and did not produce lasting change. Some Christian leaders charged Graham of currying favor with powerful political and religious figures who, in turn, used Graham to influence evangelical audiences. These criticisms became particularly persistent in the mid-1970s because of Graham's relationship with President Richard Nixon, then enmeshed in the Watergate scandal. Graham rarely answered critics, except to state that he felt his primary task, his calling from God, was to preach the gospel, and he would accept help from anyone who did not place restrictions on his message. He continued to have cordial relations with U.S. presidents and often gave the prayer at presidential inaugurals.
Graham always felt a deep interest in education and a commitment to training Christians in evangelism methods, as illustrated by the Schools of Evangelism. As early as 1969, Graham and his associates were thinking about both preserving the BGEA's historical records and establishing an evangelism training center. In 1974, the BGEA agreed to donate funds to create the Billy Graham Center on the campus of Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. Dedicated in 1980, the Center included an archives, museum, and library, all dedicated to the study of evangelism, as well as an Institute of Evangelism and various others institutes focusing on global and minority evangelism. While a department of Wheaton College, the Center worked closely with the BGEA and maintained its archives. The BGEA set up a separate corporation to oversee the endowment, which maintained the Center and funded its various projects. One of these other projects was the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove.
For many years, the BGEA board considered establishing a non-credit training school to offer Bible and evangelism courses to Christian workers and laypeople. The BGEA even acquired a property for the purpose near Asheville in western North Carolina. In the early 1980s, the BGEA contracted with Columbia Bible College to launch and administrate the school. After a few years, Columbia and the BGEA mutually decided to cancel the arrangement.
In 1987, the BGEA board of directors announced the launch of the Billy Graham Training Center on that site, "where the laity can study the Bible in depth and be trained to reach the lost for Christ, thereby serving more effectively within the local church” (Cove’s 1988 brochure). The staff appointed in 1987 included Tom Phillips, a former crusade director, as director of programming; Jerry Miller as director of property development and operations; and Larry Turner as director of the facility. Graham’s son, Franklin, was appointed chairman of the board of trustees for the Center.
The BGEA was a major influence on several twentieth-century evangelical landmark events, such as the founding of Christianity Today magazine in 1956, the World Congress on Evangelism in Berlin in 1966, the International Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne in 1974, and the three International Conferences for Itinerant Evangelists. Launched by Graham, his father-in-law L. Nelson Bell, Howard Pew, and others, Christianity Today was intended to offer an evangelical counterpoint to mainline Protestant periodicals, like The Christian Century, and became the first publication to present a thoroughly evangelical viewpoint on theology and culture. The two Congresses, which also spawned smaller regional meetings around the world, gathered Protestant leaders across the globe to plan cooperative strategies for spreading the gospel and serving the needs of the global Church. After the 1974 Congress, the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization was created, independent of the BGEA, to coordinate future meetings and continue the work of the Congress.
In 1983, 1986 and 2000, the BGEA held meetings in Amsterdam focused on providing evangelism training to Christian pastors and evangelists working at grass roots level in the Developing World. The first two meetings were called the International Congress of Itinerant Evangelists 1983, and the International Congress of Itinerant Evangelists 1986 (ICIE); the third event was called Amsterdam 2000. The conferences included sessions designed to encourage and train attendees, as well as plenary addresses featuring Graham and other significant evangelists. Almost 4,000 evangelists attended in 1983, more than 8,000 in 1986, and over 10,000 in 2000. In the 1980s and ‘90s, the congresses used television to reach increasingly larger populations, culminating in the April 1996 Global World Mission broadcast with an estimated potential audience of 2.5 billion people.
Since 1945, Graham and his wife lived in Montreat, North Carolina. The couple had five children: Virginia Leftwich, Anne Morrow, Ruth Bell, William Franklin, and Nelson Edman. In 1992, the BGEA announced that Graham had developed Parkinson's disease and would be scaling back his extremely busy schedule. In 1995, the BGEA announced that Graham’s oldest son, William Franklin Graham III, would become vice chairman of the board and would succeed Billy Graham when he eventually retired from the ministry. In May of the same year, Billy and Ruth Graham received the Congressional Medal at a ceremony held at the Capitol in Washington, DC.
After the terrorists attacks on Oklahoma City in 1995 and on New York City and Washington, DC in 2001, Graham, acting as a national pastor, gave a message of comfort during the memorial service at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC to a nation in mourning.
In late 2000s, Franklin Graham was named chief executive officer of the BGEA, while Billy Graham continued his crusade ministry. The following year, Franklin Graham succeeded his father as president of the BGEA. Billy Graham began to hold less extensive and numerous evangelistic campaigns and in June 2005 held his last campaign in New York City.
Graham’s last public sermon was preached at his son Franklin’s Festival of Hope, held in Baltimore, Maryland on July 9, 2006. Cliff Barrows and George Beverly Shea appeared with him on the platform. In November 2013, he participated in one last outreach effort, the My Hope campaign, an evangelistic appeal broadcast on television and distributed on DVDs. Following this event, he lived in retirement with Ruth in Montreat, but remained involved BGEA administration and planning.
On May 31, 2007, the Billy Graham Library, was dedicated on the grounds of the BGEA headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina. The multi-story, 40,000 square foot building tells the story of Graham's life and ministry, concluding with an invitation for visitors to accept Jesus Christ as Savior. Graham's childhood home was also moved to the property and opened to visitors. Two weeks after the dedication, Ruth Bell Graham died and was buried on the grounds of the Library, next to the site reserved for her husband.
The evangelistic trio of Graham-Shea-Barrows at the heart of the BGEA came to an end on April 13, 2013 when George Beverly Shea died at the age of 104. Cliff Barrows passed away on November 15, 2016. Graham himself passed away at home on February 21, 2018 at the age of 99. After lying in honor in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, DC on February 28 and March 1, he was buried next to his wife near the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte on March 2, 2018.