People of Influence

Both Ruth and Billy Graham met thousands of people over the years during their travels or at home. Most were ordinary people who came to one of Billy's crusades; some were special friends who made a lasting impression of them, and for whom the Grahams made an impact as well. Some of their special friends were famous to most Americans. Below is a list of them.

George Beverly SheaShea

"Bev," as Billy affectionately called him, sang on a program called "Club Time" on ABC and many other independent stations for many years. In 1943, Billy approached Shea about joining him on a radio program called "Songs in the Night," a program on WCFL in Chicago that announcer Torrey Johnson asked Billy to consider taking over. Because of Shea's popularity, Billy felt the program would be more successful with his addition.

 

President Dwight D. Eisenhower

President Eisenhower was the 34th President, from 1953-1961. During his two terms in office, he was most noted for attempting to quell the Cold War and was instrumental in establishing Eisenhowerelectoral governments in both South Korea and South Vietnam. He was the first "modern Republican." As general, he was Supreme Commander in 1944 when troops invaded Normandy on D-Day. Billy Graham met Eisenhower before the Presidential election, and after Eisenhower was nominated by the Republican Convention, he asked Billy to write some comments of a religious nature for his campaign speeches. Although Billy refused to disclose his political preference, he jotted down some Bible verses for the general.

 

President John F. Kennedy

President Kennedy was the 35th President, from 1961-1963, and the first Catholic President of the US. He was killed by an assassin's bullet a year before he finished his first term. He Kennedynegotiated the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 and sent advisors to Vietnam as tensions increased. Billy's introduction to the Presidential nominee came in a phone call asking the evangelist to make a statement on tolerance for Roman Catholics; however, Billy could not make such a statement, saying that it would be interpreted as an endorsement. However, Billy did reassure him that he was not concerned about having a Catholic President, although many Southern Baptists were.

 

President Richard M. Nixon

President Nixon was the 37th President, from 1969-1974. Nixon entered office during a time of tension and division in the nation and ordered the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam. In Nixonaddition, he made great strides in improving relations between the US and the USSR. Although he was elected for a second term, the Watergate scandal forced him to resign. Billy and Ruth befriended the Nixons in 1950 when Richard Nixon was senator of California. After Nixon's Vice Presidency under President Eisenhower, Billy reluctantly agreed to pray publicly for Nixon as he ran for President against Kennedy, an act which many people viewed as an endorsement. Throughout Nixon's political career, Billy maintained his friendship with him, carefully avoiding any public connection with his political views.

 

President Lyndon B. Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson

Lyndon Johnson became President on November 22, 1963, after President Kennedy was killed. He continued the fight against poverty and for many of the issues that Kennedy had made Johnsoncentral to his agenda. He won the Presidency in 1964 by a landslide, but withdrew from running for a second term in order to seek peace in the Vietnam situation. The Grahams and Johnsons were good friends; in fact, Billy, Ruth and the other Crusade leaders often visited the Johnsons on their Texas ranch. Billy did not always subscribe to the President's views, and in fact disagreed with him publicly at one of his Crusades.

 

President Jimmy Carter

The thirty-ninth President, James Earl Carter, Jr. wanted a government that was more compassionate. He fought both at home and abroad for human rights, often making enemies of Cartercountries like the Soviet Union and many South American nations. While he diligently sought ways to decrease rising inflation, poverty and energy consumption, rising energy costs and inflation, multiplied by the hostage crisis in Iran, cost him reelection. Billy Graham and Carter had been acquaintances for years, and during his 1975 Crusade in Jackson, Mississippi, Billy discovered that Carter was running for President. During Carter's Presidency, Billy assisted in returning the crown of St. Stephen to Hungary, after it had been stored at Fort Knox since World War II.


President George Bush and Barbara BushBush

President George Bush's slogan throughout his campaign and Presidency was "a kinder, gentler nation," for which he wanted to use US military strength as a "force for good." Two most notable events during his one term in office were the end of the Cold War, including the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the successful Gulf War. Billy and Ruth had befriended the Bushes long before Bush became involved in national politics. Barbara Bush and Ruth had a special relationship, and they were quite similar in many ways--they both were devoted to their families and were good hostesses, but they also had a quick sense of humor and were fun and spontaneous.

President ReaganReagan

President Reagan, the 40th President, restored the nation to prosperity and relative peace after a long period of recession. His tax cuts introduced a new trend for succeeding Presidents but eventually led to a huge deficit. He maintained an anti-Communism policy, especially for Central America, Asia, the Soviet Union and Africa. Billy Graham had known Reagan since 1953, when he met him at a golf course in Phoenix. When Reagan was shot, Jesse Helms, Senator of North Carolina, asked Billy to travel to the Washington Hilton Hotel (where the shooting occurred) and offer spiritual encouragement and prayer. Billy also called the Hinckleys, assuring them of his prayers for their son (the shooter).

President Gerald FordFord

President Ford's claim to the Presidency was indeed a troubled one: he had been the first President to succeed a President who resigned and to claim the office under the terms of the Twenty-fifth amendment. He tried to curb inflation and government intervention in public affairs. Although he typically did not involve himself in politics, Billy encouraged Ford to pardon former President Nixon to initiate the healing of a divided nation. President Ford did not always agree with Billy's choice for travel; however, he changed his mind when he saw the thousands of people who gathered to hear him speak.

President Bill ClintonClinton

William Jefferson Clinton enjoyed a Presidency that was covered in international peace, economic prosperity, lower welfare roles and crime rates and immense popularity. Despite personal indiscretions that brought him an impeachment hearing, he continued to be popular among the public throughout his 2 terms. For Billy Graham, President Clinton represented a comforting presence after the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City as he extended sympathy to survivors. President Clinton also presented Ruth and Billy Graham with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor the US Congress can bestow on an individual.

Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev served as President of the Soviet Union from 1990-91 and General Secretary of the Polit Bureau of the Central Committee, Communist Party of Soviet Union until that time. He resigned as President in 1991 when the Soviet Union dissolved. Billy and Ruth both met him during their visits to the Soviet Union. During a reception at the Russian Embassy in December 1987, Billy noticed that during their conversations, Gorbachev used the word "spiritual" several times as he was talking about the need for values in his proposed reforms.

Indira GandhiIndira

Ms. Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister of India from 1966-77 and 1980-84. While she was quite skilled in politics, her decisions gained her many enemies, one of whom assassinated her in 1984. During Billy's 1972 trip to India, President Nixon had asked him to speak with Prime Minister Gandhi to find out what kind of ambassador she wanted from America. Her subsequent answer landed Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan as the new ambassador to India.

Patricia CornwellCornwell

Author of the biography of Ruth Bell Graham, Patricia Cornwell began her writing career as a crime reporter for the Charlotte Observer. After winning awards for her newspaper stories, she followed her interests to the chief medical examiner's office in Virginia, where she worked for more than six years as a computer analyst. In the late 1980s she began writing novels, and her first, Postmortem (Scribners, 1990), won the Edgar, Creasey, Anthony and Macavity awards, and the French Prix du Roman d'Aventure in one year. Her other works include Body of Evidence, All that Remains, Cruel and Unusual, and Unnatural Exposure. Cornwell met Ruth Bell Graham's parents, Virginia and Nelson Bell, while she lived in Florida. When her mother moved her and her two brothers to Montreat in 1963, when Cornwell was 7 years old, she introduced herself to Ruth Graham. She and Ruth began their friendship when Cornwell was 19, and she has remained a good friend of the Grahams ever since.