Billy Graham

A Tribute from Friends


By Vernon McLellan

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Billy Graham’s legacy is celebrated in a collection of poignant tributes and memories as leaders from the worlds of government, business, sports, entertainment and religion share their personal stories and remembrances of this remarkable man.


Copyright Page

© 2002 by Vernon McLellan.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages n a review.

Published in association with the literary agency of Alive Communications, Inc., 7680 Goddard Street #200, Colorado Springs, CO 80920.

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ISBN: 978-0-446-55969-0

First eBook Edition: May 2002

Dr. Ben Armstrong

Billy Graham is a role model. For me he first established this at the Christian and Missionary Alliance Council in May 1945 in Cleveland, Ohio, at Euclid Baptist Church. Billy and our mutual friend, Howard Jones, met for lunch.

Billy talked about his vision to reach the lost by preaching the gospel worldwide. It was a vision I have never forgotten. Not only did Billy have a vision for worldwide evangelism according to biblical mandates but he displayed "fire in the belly" for reaching people regardless of color or background.

Billy talked about his radio program Songs in the Night. That inspired me toward my own subsequent ministry in radio.

Later Billy Graham initiated his Hour of Decision with the help of Walter Bennett in Chicago and Fred Dienert of Philadelphia.

The result: Howard Jones joined Billy as an associate evangelist with earth-shaking achievements. Howard went to Liberia as a missionary and around the world with crusades and radio.

I was moved to tears by Billy Graham's vision of world evangelization in May 1945. It changed the course of my life. In a sense I became "radio active" for the Lord.

Dr. Ben Armstrong, Ruth Carter Stapleton, and Billy Graham (photo courtesy of Dr. Ben Armstrong)

I helped my brother-in-law, Paul Freed, to found an international radio ministry I named Trans World Radio. For many years I labored as a TWR radio missionary in New Jersey and in Monte Carlo, Monaco.

In 1967 I founded the first national office of National Religious Broadcasters in my home basement in Madison, N.J. Sometimes discouraged during twenty-three years as executive director at National Religious Broadcasters, I never forgot Billy Graham's vision of reaching lost people. Daily prayers renewed the vision again and again.

In 1974 I was asked by Billy Graham to lead the radio/TV office of the International Congress of World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland. During the meetings attended by global leaders I moderated the news conferences featuring Dr. Graham. Billy dealt courageously with strategic world issues and was always steadfastly true to the gospel as the revealed Word of God.

During the Lausanne Congress I asked Billy. "What is your key to success in evangelism?" He said: "I am greatly helped in reaching the audience by radio and TV. But every time I speak I have three objectives: (1) gain attention by dealing with the great issues of the day; (2) focus on the gospel, expressing it as clearly as I can; and (3) think about it, but always ask for a decision.

As I quote in my book The Electric Church (Thomas Nelson, 1979) Billy discussed his key to success in the Los Angeles Crusade in 1949. Billy said: "The crowds are larger, the interest is deeper and the response is greater. I attribute this to the power of the Holy Spirit and also to the broadcasting media open to us. … A great factor in the religious resurgence in this country is religious radio and television."

As executive director of National Religious Broadcasters I invited top speakers from religion and government. The most popular and frequent convention speaker was Billy Graham, keynoter from 1968 to 1989. He brought the BGEA team, including song director Cliff Barrows, soloist Beverly Shea, Howard Jones, and musicians.

At NRB you could hear Billy Graham and also a speech from the U.S. president, President Ford to President Bush.

To have Billy Graham and the president of the United States speak at NRB each year meant that religious broadcasters whatever their persuasion—fundamentalist, pentecostal, mainline, conservative, Catholic, or Protestant—attended. Mitchell includes a photo in his book Billy Graham, Saint or Sinner (Revell, 1979). This photo shows Billy at the NRB podium at NRB '78 with Bishop Fulton Sheen, the famous Catholic TV personality, behind him. Before the 1978 convention Bishop Sheen phoned asking me if he could attend to hear Dr. Billy Graham. Immediately I invited him to the closing banquet. After Dr. Graham's message the bishop leaned over and said to me, "What a powerful message!"

Ben Armstrong is vice president of Norstar, America's first commercial Ka-Band satellite. Before that he serves as president of Madison Broadcasting Group, Inc., and earlier as executive director of National Religious Broadcasters. He authored The Electric Church.

Wally Armstrong

My alcoholic father's coming to Jesus Christ was the greatest miracle of my life. For years he was abusive and critical of my mother and me about following Jesus.

After major cancer surgery he began reading the Bible. We saw a change in his life. He called me aside one day prior to facing more surgery, and said, "Son, a few weeks ago I took your mother down to the arena to attend a Billy Graham crusade. Dr. Graham spoke about God's love for me. He said when God forgives you He not only takes the slate of all your sins and erases it, but He takes the slate and throws it away, forever. This was the kind of forgiveness I needed. After hearing that, I took your mother's hand and we went forward and I committed my life to Jesus Christ. You do not have to worry about me. I know where I'm going."

Before Dad passed away from cancer a few months later, the last words I heard from him were those from a simple song he sang that he probably learned as a little child: "Jesus loves me! This I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. They are weak but He is strong." I wept and joy filled my soul knowing that I would see him again someday.

I am so grateful that God has so richly given Billy Graham to the world, and for the role that Billy played in being part of the greatest miracle of my life.

Wally Armstrong, president of Gator Golf Enterprises, Inc., has been a professional golfer and instructor since 1968, having competed in more than three hundred PGA Tour events. He set a rookie record in his first Masters. Because of his exceptionally consistent record, Mr. Armstrong was awarded a lifetime membership in the PGA Tour.

Kay Arthur

I have never attended a Billy Graham Crusade in person—in fact when I came to Jesus Christ at the age of twenty-nine in 1963 I really had never heard of Billy Graham, as strange as that may sound. I've only watched the BG crusades on television about two or three times. Billy and I have never personally talked more than about three times and that was never in great depth. Yet the fruit of this man's life, the spiritual by-products of the Billy Graham Association, the friendship of his various staff members, his wife, daughters, and grandchildren, and getting to know Franklin and his wife while at the Cove have all imprinted my life and my ministry.

When I reflect on Billy's impact (and it has been an impact!) on my life, I realize that it's not because of knowing him personally but of benefiting from the sum total of the way God has used him, which to me is a far greater tribute to this dear man's life.

As the cofounder of Precept Ministries International with my husband, Jack, I have learned so much about:

1. Relationships—maintaining long-term staff who know you for who you are and respect you but who are honest and objective, with no "stars in their eyes."

Billy Graham, Kay Arthur, and Ruth Graham (photo courtesy of Kay Arthur)

2. Integrity—in finances, in personal guidelines that help keep one beyond reproach more. How I appreciate Billy's honesty and the admonition that accompanies it.

3. Openness—Ruth's vulnerability, her sharing her struggles in her family, and the writing of her book about Franklin, the prodigal, all ministered to me before our own prodigal returned home.

4. Graciousness—the importance of the individual. When I first talked with Billy, I felt like he should be talking with others more important than me. But he never made me feel that way. There is a graciousness about Ruth and Billy that is winsome and that causes you to want to be and do the same.

I've had the privilege of partnership with the BGEA: books that I authored were offered by them, I teach at the Cove (and it's like home), I've written for Decision Magazine, and I serve on an advisory board for the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. What does this say—what is the message? The message is that Billy never intended to be the star but rather one member of the body operating in his gifts and working with others in the body for the glory of the One to whom all glory belongs.

As I stand in the halls at the Cove and study the exciting pictures of Billy's beginnings as an evangelist, it's like reading Hebrews II—my heart is stirred to press on towards the prize of the high calling in Jesus Christ. Billy is one of my heroes of faith.

Kay Arthur, along with her husband, Jack, is the founder of Precept Ministries International, a group that conducts conferences and funds institutes to train people in the Word of God. Today it serves in 118 countries in over sixty-three languages. Mrs. Arthur has written over forty books including How to Study Your Bible.

Dr. David Breese

Billy Graham has had a profound influence upon my life. We first met in my last year of seminary and quickly developed a warm friendship. It was obvious to everyone that Billy was going to be an evangelist! I was torn between a love of teaching and a burning desire to reach a world for Christ. Billy's zeal and fire for the Lord helped lead me to my decision. I would teach, but I would do it from the podium of the evangelist.

In the years that followed, we worked together on several occasions. It was my privilege to speak to the youth at the Minneapolis crusade, which drew thousands. During the years in which "Youth for Christ" exploded across the world, we met abroad many times at the annual YFC World Congresses. The interaction with Christians from other lands produced in us a heightened passion for evangelism.

Billy Graham and I have fought together as soldiers on a battlefield for the Lord. I respect him as a warrior of the cross and a defender of the gospel. His ability to explain the gospel simply and clearly is without peer. He is a faithful servant of the Almighty God, and it warms my soul to be able to call him my friend.

Dr. David Breese is an internationally known author, lecturer, broadcaster, and minister. He is president of Christian Destiny, Inc., and World Prophetic Ministry. Dr. Breese is the author of several books including Seven Men Who Rule the World from the Grave.

Dr. Bill Bright

Billy Graham has been a great inspiration to me for over a half century. No one has had a greater impact on world evangelism and on more people, nor has maintained such a total focus on the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ than has Billy.

In 1951 God called my wife, Vonette, and me to begin the worldwide ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ International, just three years after Billy came on the national scene. The last half of the twentieth century and continuing has been an incredible, unprecedented time of harvest for God's kingdom, with other great worldwide ministries also established during this time. There has never been such a time in the history of the church, largely because of the explosion of technology and transportation. I believe God anointed Billy Graham to help spearhead this great move of the Holy Spirit.

Many years ago, while I was a student at Fuller Theological Seminary and running my own business, two very gifted young evangelists came to speak during a chapel program. Both believed and preached the Word of God without questioning its authority. Later, however, both began to question whether or not the Bible was truly inspired in every way and in every word. One of these men eventually rejected the integrity of God's Word. As a result, he had no moorings on which to base his life and ministry. He got a divorce, left the ministry, and eventually became an outspoken antagonist of the Christian faith.

Bill Bright, Billy Graham, and Vonette Bright (photo courtesy of Bill Bright)

The other young man chose to believe that the Bible was truly the Word of God. Even what he could not understand, he entrusted to God and reckoned it to be true, until such time as God would grant understanding.

There is no need for me to mention the name of the first man. But the second man is my good friend Billy Graham. I have always admired Billy's faithfulness to God's holy, inerrant Word.

During a sermon by Billy I was once inspired to take on a task that would be impossible without God's intervention. It was in about 1969, and I was at a Billy Graham evangelistic crusade in Minneapolis. Billy was speaking. As he spoke, another voice began speaking to my heart, telling me to call a great gathering of one hundred thousand people together for a week of training in discipleship and evangelism.

It was clearly God speaking to me. I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. I later shared the idea with Billy and he became excited, saying, "I want to help."


On Sale
May 30, 2009
Page Count
208 pages