U.S., State and City flags be flown at half-staff at state and municipal offices and facilities on Friday, March 2, the day of the Rev. Billy Graham’s internment. This is in keeping with the Presidential proclamation to fly the U.S. Flag at half-staff as a mark of respect for the memory of the Rev. Graham. Here is the Presidential proclamation:
As a mark of respect for the memory of Reverend Billy Graham, I hereby order, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, that on the day of his interment, the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset on such day. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same period at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.
— Donald J.Trump
Religious figure and Christian evangelist William Franklin Graham, Jr. was born on November 7, 1918, in Charlotte, North Carolina, to parents William and Morrow Graham. Billy Graham was the first of four children raised on the family’s dairy farm in Charlotte. In hindsight there was little indication that Graham would one day preach the Christian gospel to as many as 215 million people in live audiences over 185 countries. Graham has been credited with preaching to more individuals than anyone else in history, not counting the additional millions he has addressed through radio, television and the written word.
After graduating from the Florida Bible Institute with a bachelor’s in theology, Graham moved to Illinois and enrolled at Wheaton College for further spiritual training. Here he would meet his future wife, Ruth McCue Bell. Ruth was the daughter of a missionary, and lived with her family in China until she turned 17. After graduating with a bachelor’s in anthropology, Graham and Bell were married on August 13, 1943. They would eventually raise five children together.
It did not take long for people to identify with Billy Graham’s charismatic and heartfelt gospel sermons. In 1949, a group called “Christ for Greater Los Angeles” invited Graham to preach at their L.A. revival. When radio personality Stuart Hamblen had Graham on his radio show, word of the revival spread. The publicity filled Graham’s tents and extended the revival for an additional five weeks.
As a consequence, Graham became a Christian superstar. Sociologically it is believed that Graham’s success was directly related to the cultural climate of post-WWII America. Graham spoke out against the evils of Communism—one of the biggest fears threatening the American consciousness. In a 1954 interview Graham stated, “Either communism must die, or Christianity must die, because it is actually a battle between Christ and anti-Christ.” With the advent of nuclear weapons and the demonstrated fragility of life, people turned to spirituality for comfort, and Graham illuminated their path.
In order to expand and maintain a professional ministry, Graham and his colleagues eventually incorporated the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). Graham began broadcasting his sermons over the radio during a Christian show called Songs in the Night. Once a week he also hosted a program called The Hour of Decision, a program ABC initially transmitted to 150 stations before reaching its peak of 1,200 stations across America.
Eventually this program was converted into a television show which ran for three years. The success of Graham’s radio and television programs speak to his role as a Christian media visionary. Graham used the media as a means for spreading the gospel of Christ, allowing him to access millions of people around the globe.
However, through his long and extraordinary career, Graham has overwhelmingly been regarded in a positive light, one Time reporter calling him “the Pope of Protestant America.” Graham’s integrity has encouraged millions to heed his spiritual guidance, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Bono, Muhammad Ali and United States presidents from Eisenhower to Bush. He has been rated by the Gallup organization as “One of the Ten Most Admired Men in the World” a staggering 51 times. He is regarded by contemporaries as humorous, non-judgmental, sincere, innocent and accepting.
Graham passed away at his home in Montreat, North Carolina, on February 21, 2018, at the age of 99. Although his health had been in decline in recent years, he reportedly died of natural causes.