NPR

'America's Pastor' Billy Graham Dies At 99

One of the most influential religious figures of the 20th century, he radically changed the face of born-again Christianity from fundamentalism to a more embracing evangelicalism.
Graham preaches in the early 1950s. Over his career, he preached to more than 200 million people in 185 countries, radically changing the face of born-again Christianity. Source: Hulton Archive

Billy Graham, the most famous minister of his era, died Wednesday at his home in Montreat, N.C., spokesman Todd Shearer tells NPR. In his 99 years, Graham changed the face of evangelical Christianity in America.

Though he spent his final years in failing health and largely silent at his mountaintop cabin in North Carolina, Graham for more than six decades was in constant motion. He preached to more than 200 million people in 185 countries, counseled presidents and led mass religious rallies that featured professional musicians and huge choirs, in venues ranging from a circus tent in Los Angeles to Yankee Stadium in New York.

His influence as a moral and spiritual leader in 20th century America was such that one historian said Billy Graham could confer "acceptability on wars, shame on racial prejudice, desirability on decency, dishonor on indecency, and prestige on civic events."

Graham's fame and popularity, however, derived first from his passionate preaching style, which was partly a product of his upbringing.

He grew up milking cows and pitching hay on his family farm just outside Charlotte, N.C.. His parents were pious Presbyterians who led their children in prayer before every meal and insisted that they learn a new Bible verse each day.

As a boy, Billy did not rebel against that religious discipline, but he was soon attracted to a more raucous form of worship. After attending a few outdoor revival meetings, he decided his Christian calling was to be a Bible-waving preacher like the ones who came through Charlotte in

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from NPR

NPR3 min read
'The Cave' Documentary Gives On The Ground Look At Syria's Civil War
The documentary follows a doctor at an underground hospital that was bombed by the Syrian government.
NPR4 min read
PHOTOS: Why Lynsey Addario Has Spent 10 Years Covering Maternal Mortality
The Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, known for her work in war zones, turns to a topic that is often shied away from: the risks women face when giving birth.
NPR6 min read
Impeachment Inquiry Update: What The Past Week Revealed About The Ukraine Affair
President Trump commissioned Rudy Giuliani as his top guy for Ukraine and the White House also appointed "three amigos" to carry out its policy. The administration says nothing's wrong here.