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Timeline

1918 to 1939

  • November 7, 1918  
    William Franklin Graham, Jr., to be known generally as Billy Graham, was born near Charlotte, North Carolina, to William Franklin and Morrow (Coffey) Graham. Billy was the first of four children, followed by Catherine, Melvin, and Jean. His father was a farmer and Graham grew up on the farm.
  • 1919 
    Baptized by sprinkling at Chalmers Memorial Church.
  • August 30-November 25, 1934 
    Evangelist Mordecai Ham led a revival campaign in Charlotte, North Carolina, during which Graham accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior. This apparently happened around his 16th birthday on November 7.
  • 1937-1940
    After brief attendance at Bob Jones College, Graham attended Florida Bible Institute, from which he graduated in a class of eight.
  • March 28, 1937 
    Preached to a congregation, probably for the first time, in Bostick, Florida at an evening Easter Sunday service.
  • December 30, 1936 - January 2, 1937
    Participated for the first time in an evangelistic campaign, held at the Hope Mission in West Tampa, Florida. Was soon leading campaigns on his own in churches around Tampa.
  • December 4, 1938 
    Baptized while leading a series of meetings at a Baptist church in Silver Lake, Florida.
  • February, 1939
    Ordained as a Southern Baptist minister in East Patalka, Florida by an ordination council of the St John's River Association. This began his life-long membership in the Southern Baptist Convention.

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1940s

  • July 23, 1940 
    August 5 Led an evangelistic campaign in York, Pennsylvania. This was one of the first (if not the first) independent, multi-church evangelistic campaigns held on consecutive nights in a single community; the type that he would lead for the rest of his life.
  • 1940-1943  
    Attended Wheaton College, in Wheaton, Illinois, from which he graduated with a B.A. in Anthropology.
  • September 15, 1941 
    Became minister of the United Gospel Tabernacle in Wheaton, following the president of Wheaton College, V. Raymond Edman, who had founded the Tabernacle. Graham also continued to hold evangelistic meetings around the country while attending college.
  • June 14, 1943  
    Graduated from Wheaton College. Shortly after, he accepted the invitation to the pulpit of the nearby Western Springs Baptist Church, also known as the Village Church. It is the only formal pastorate he ever held.
  • August 13, 1943
    Married Ruth McCue Bell, a fellow student at Wheaton, shortly after their graduation.
  • January (?) 1944 
    Took over as main speaker on the "Songs in the Night" radio program, following Torrey Johnson of the Midwest Bible Church, who had started the program. Graham soon persuaded the popular Gospel singer George Beverly Shea to join him on the program. About this time, he also began to speak frequently at rallies of the Chicagoland Youth for Christ, an evangelistic organization aimed at young people.
  • 1945
    Graham left the Village Church and the "Songs in the Night" radio program. When Youth for Christ clubs from around the country formed a national organization in Winona Lake, Indiana on July 22-29, Torrey Johnson became president and Billy Graham became one of the vice presidents. Graham was soon traveling around North America as one of YFC’s best known speakers. At a summer conference, he worked for the first time with Cliff Barrows, who filled in for a missing song leader.
  • September 21, 1945 
    First child, Virginia Leftwich “Gigi” Graham, born.
  • March 18 - April 28, 1946
    Went on a tour of England, Scotland, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, France as part of a YFC evangelistic team consisting of Torrey Johnson, Chuck Templeton, and J. Shufelt Stratton. This was Graham’s first trip outside of the United States.
  • October-March 1946
    Returned to Great Britain for a YFC evangelistic tour of several cities, with Cliff Barrows as his song leader. Participated in a meeting in Birmingham in late December that resulted in the founding of the British YFC organization.
  • 1947
    Spoke almost continually around North America for YFC.
  • 1947
    Zondervan Press published Graham’s first book, Calling Youth to Christ, a collection of his sermons. He would publish dozens of books in years to come, almost all dealing with some aspect of how to know Jesus Christ and live the Christian life.
  • November 9-23, 1947
    Held evangelistic campaign in Charlotte, with George Beverly Shea, Cliff Barrows and new team member and longtime acquaintance, Grady Wilson. From this time on Graham was, in essence, holding his own independent evangelistic meetings with the team he had assembled.
  • 1947-1952
    In December, at the insistence of William Bell Riley, the founder of Northwestern Schools in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Graham succeeded Riley as president. He was rarely on campus in the following years, as he continued to live in Montreat, North Carolina and held evangelistic campaigns around the country. Several future key people on his staff, such as business manager George M. Wilson, researcher Robert Ferm, and publicity manager Jerry Beaven joined him from the staff of Northwestern.
  • May 21, 1948
    Anne Morrow Graham born.
  • August 10-22, 1948
    Attended YFC World Congress in Beatenburg, Switzerland, and made contacts with several Evangelical leaders from around the world.
  • August 1948
    Present as an observer at the founding meeting of the World Council of Churches.
  • October 24 - November 7, 1948
    Led an evangelistic campaign in Modesto, California. During the meeting, he, Barrows, Shea, and Grady Wilson agreed on the so-called Modesto Manifesto, a set of principles intended to keep their ministry free of scandal and in conformity with high ethical standards.
  • January 1949
    Led a YFC meeting in Chatham, Ontario, Canada. He was invited by and met Leighton Ford, who later became one of his associate evangelists and his brother-in-law.
  • August or early September, 1949
    Attended a meeting at the Forest Home Bible Conference grounds in California. During the meeting, an internal struggle he had been having about the reliability of the Bible came to a head and he rededicated his life and his ministry to Jesus Christ.
  • September 25 - November 20, 1949
    Led the 1949 Los Angeles evangelistic meeting, an annual event sponsored by the Christ for Greater Los Angeles Committee. The event drew far larger crowds than anticipated and received nationwide publicity in the secular press, thanks in part to the efforts of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Graham became known for the first time by the general public. From this time forward he was either leading extended evangelistic campaigns in cities around the United States or getting ready for the next one. Henry Luce provides national publicity in his Time and Life magazines. 

1950s banner image Billy Graham 

1950s

  • July 14, 1950
    Graham went to the White House for a private meeting with President Harry S. Truman. Graham naively talked about the meeting with press later, winning Truman’s lasting disapproval. But Graham had a friendly relationship with every following United States president, and was close to several, including Lyndon Baines Johnson and Richard M. Nixon.
  • July 23-September 4, 1950
    Led an evangelistic campaign in Portland, Oregon. During the meeting, he and his associates were convinced by the advertising agency, Walter F. Bennett and Associates, to start a weekly radio program which aired for the first time on November 5 as "The Hour of Decision."   
  • September 17, 1950
    The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) was organized to serve as the corporate base of the radio program and of Graham’s other evangelistic activities. It was based in Minneapolis , partly because that was the home of business manager George Wilson and partly to give Graham, a southern evangelist, nationwide appeal.
  • December, 1950
    Ruth Bell “Bunny” Graham born.
  • 1951-1954
    A weekly half hour television program, also called "The Hour of Decision," premiered on ABC. It was Graham’s first foray into television. It was only moderately successful and went off the air three years later.
  • 1951
    Great Commission Films, an existing Christian film company led by Dick Ross, became a subsidiary of the BGEA under the new name of World Wide Pictures. It became the film arm of Graham’s ministry.
  • July 14, 1952
    William Franklin III (Franklin) born.
  • November-December, 1952
    First evangelistic tour of Asia, including meetings in Japan and an extended visit to the American military forces fighting in Korea.
  • 1952
    Began his syndicated newspaper column, "My Answer," which answered people’s questions about life, the Bible and the Christian faith.
  • 1953
    Peace with God published by Doubleday & Co.
  • March 1 - May 22, 1954
    Graham was invited to hold an extended evangelistic campaign in London, England. Although on arrival he faced intense criticism from the English press as an American sensationalist, he had won general respect around the country by the end of the campaign. This was the BGEA’s first major campaign outside the United States. From this time forward, Graham alternated major meetings inside and outside the United States in every part of the world except for Islamic countries. Only the more important meetings are listed below. For a more extended list, go to the Archives online chronology of the BGEA. In December, a BGEA office was opened in England, the first of several opened in other countries.
  • September, 1955
    Graham and his father-in-law, L. Nelson Bell, founded Christianity Today International to publish a journal for the expression of informed Evangelical opinion on current theological, social and political trends. The first issue of Christianity Today appeared in October 1956, with theologian Carl F. Henry as editor. Graham remained involved in CT and served on its board for several decades.
  • 1956 
    T. W. Wilson, brother of Grady and himself an evangelist, joined the BGEA. He remained a close co-worker and advisor of Graham’s for the rest of his life.
  • May 15 - September 1, 1957
    Held an evangelistic campaign in New York City that was the culmination of his ministry up to that point. Besides the nightly services in Madison Square Garden, there were many other meetings at sites around the city, including Yankee Stadium, Wall Street, and Times Square. The campaign established Graham as the United States’ best known evangelist. After this, Graham began to hold fewer major crusades each year (from three to five) of shorter duration. Associate evangelists of the BGEA, including the Wilson brothers, Ford, Howard Jones, Lane Graham, Ralph Bell, Akbar Haqq and John Wesley White, among others, led their own meetings in cities around the world.
  • June 1, 1957
    Live broadcasts of the New York meetings began and continued for several weeks. Graham had been insistent on the importance of using the new medium of television to reach as large an audience as possible. From this time on, he usually broadcast services from major campaigns. Eventually these programs, which were recorded as opposed to live, would have phone numbers at the end that people could call to talk to counselors about how to give their lives to Jesus Christ.
  • January, 1958
    Ned Graham born.
  • February 15 - May 31, 1959
    Held meetings in the large cities of Australia and New Zealand for the first time.
  • September 27 - October 4, 1959
    Returned to Wheaton, Illinois for a week long crusade.

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1960s

  • January 12 - March 13, 1960
    Led an evangelistic tour of Africa that visited Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria, Rhodesia, Kenya, Ruanda-Urundi, Ethiopia, and Egypt.
  • November, 1960
    First issue of the BGEA’s magazine, Decision appeared. It had Bible studies, reports on activities of the ministry, articles about the Christian life, and an evangelistic message, usually by Graham.
  • 1962
    During the Chicago crusade, a series of seminars was held for seminary students to provide lectures and experience in practical evangelistic work. This program eventually became the BGEA’s Schools of Evangelism, which are held around the world to provide pastors and other Christian workers with training in how to do evangelistic work in their own communities.
  • April 17, 1963
    Ground was broken for the Billy Graham Pavillion at the New York World’s Fair. During the entire span of the Fair from 1964 through 1965, the pavilion presented an evangelistic message to the crowds that came through, including Graham’s presentation of the Christian gospel in the film Man in the Fifth Dimension.
  • August 15 - September 8, 1963
    Led evangelistic campaign in Los Angeles.
  • January 20, 1965
    Preached at a worship service before the inauguration of President Lyndon Johnson. Graham would pray or preach during the inauguration ceremonies of several presidents that followed, including Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush.
  • 1965
    World Aflame published by Doubleday & Co.
  • October 26 - November 4, 1966
    The World Congress on Evangelism, sponsored by the BGEA and Christianity Today magazine, is held in Berlin, West Germany. It is the first of several world and regional meetings sponsored by the BGEA, for the purpose of bringing together Protestant Evangelical leaders for planning, support and fellowship.

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1970s

  • July 4, 1970
    Co-chairman, with Bob Hope, of the Honor America Day in Washington, DC.
  • January 1, 1971
    Grand Marshal of the Rose Bowl parade in Pasadena, California.
  • July 4, 1971
    Grand Marshal of the Salute to America parade in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • May 30-June 3, 1973
    Led evangelistic campaign in Seoul, Korea attended by more than three million people.
  • July 16-25, 1974
    Honorary chair of the International Congress on World Evangelization, held in Lausanne, Switzerland (also known as the Lausanne Congress), At the end of the Congress, Billy Graham and other participants, signed the Lausanne Covenant, a restatement of basic beliefs of Evangelical Christianity.
  • October, 1974
    The BGEA and Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois announced plans for the Billy Graham Center. The Center was to be a division of Wheaton College which would serve to stimulate global evangelism. It would include an archives (which would house the historical files of Graham and the BGEA as well as other archival collections about North American evangelism), a museum (including an exhibit on the life and ministry of Billy Graham), an evangelism library, and an institute of evangelism, among other programs.
  • September 3-10, 1977
    Held evangelistic meetings in three cities in Hungary. These were his first major meetings in Communist countries. These laid the groundwork for his very influential trips to other East European Communist countries and finally to the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China.
  • 1977
    How to be Born Again and Angels: God’s Secret Agents published.
  • September 13, 1980
    Dedication and official opening of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College. 

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1980s

  • May 7-13, 1982
    Visited Moscow in the Soviet Union. He gave a talk at a nuclear disarmament conference, but the major purpose of his visit was to lay the groundwork for future visits. He made two major evangelistic tours of the Soviet Union, in 1984 and 1988 and in Russia in 1992 after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
  • February 23, 1983
    Received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor given by the executive branch of the United States government to private citizens.
  • July 12-21, 1983
    International Conference of Itinerant Evangelists (Amsterdam 83), sponsored by the BGEA. A conference of workshops and programs aimed at the needs of people who traveled from town to town as Christian evangelists. Over 3,800 people attended from 133 countries.
  • July 12-21,  1983
    International Conference of Itinerant Evangelists (Amsterdam 86), sponsored by the BGEA. 8,000 people attended from 176 countries.
  • November 30, 1987
    The BGEA announced plans to start the Billy Graham Training Center outside of Asheville, North Carolina. The center, known as the Cove, became a campus for evangelism training, Bible studies and similar programs for laypeople. Programs began to be held on the property the next year.
  • April 13-28, 1988
    Graham, with his wife Ruth, visited, for the first time, several major cities of the People’s Republic of China and preached in Beijing on April 17.
  • 1989
    Graham’s eldest son, William Franklin Graham III, known as Franklin, began to preach at BGEA meetings, first with associate evangelist John Wesley White, then, starting in 1995, on his own.

1990s banner image Billy Graham 

1990s

  • March 31 - April 4, 1992
    Visit to North Korea, including a meeting with President Kim Il Sung and a service at Changchung Church. Another visit followed in 1994, during which Graham brought a message from President Bill Clinton and returned with one from Kim.
  • January 27 - February 1, 1994
    Visited North Korea to assist in the negotiations between the North Korean and United States governments.
  • April 23, 1995
    Preached at the memorial service for those killed in the Oklahoma City bombing.
  • November, 1995
    Franklin Graham was appointed first vice-chairman of the BGEA.
  • April, 1996
    The BGEA broadcasted the meeting of Global World Mission, a series of Billy Graham evangelistic services, via satellite to a potential 2.5 billion audience worldwide.
  • May 2, 1996
    Billy and Ruth Graham received the Congressional Gold Medal, highest honor given by the United States Congress to private citizens.
  • 1997
    Billy Graham’s autobiography, Just As I Am, published by Harper Collins.

2000s

  • July 29-August 26, 2000
    Amsterdam 2000 conference in the Netherlands, sponsored by the BGEA. This was the third in a series of conferences held for itinerant evangelists from around the world. People from 209 countries and territories attended. Graham was not able to attend for health reasons, but sent a video message.
  • 2000
    Franklin Graham was appointed CEO of the BGEA.
  • November 14, 2001
    Franklin Graham succeeded his father as president of the BGEA.
  • September 14, 2001
    Gave the principal sermon at the National Day of Prayer Service held in the National Cathedral in Washington, DC after the September 11 terrorist attack on the United States.
  • 2001
    Billy Graham was made Honorary Knight Commander of the British Empire (KBE).
  • October 29, 2002
    Groundbreaking for the new BGEA International headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina. The headquarters had been in Minneapolis, Minnesota, since 1950.
  • June 24-26, 2005
    Held last evangelistic campaign in New York City, although he occasionally made appearances at later meetings led by his son Franklin.
  • October 9-11, 2006
    Will Graham, Billy Graham’s grandson, held his first United States evangelistic service in Gastonia, North Carolina.
  • May 31, 2007
    The Billy Graham Library, an exhibit on the life and ministry of Billy Graham, dedicated and opened in Charlotte, North Carolina.
  • June 14, 2007
    Ruth McCue (Bell) Graham died.
  • April 16, 2013
    George Beverly Shea died.
  • November 7, 2013
    On the occasion of his 95th birthday, "My Hope America, with Billy Graham," a special outreach program, is launched.
  • November 15, 2016
    Cliff Barrows died.
  • February 21, 2018
    Billy Graham died.

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