Mr. Speaker, Paul wrote in the book of Galatians ‘‘But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.’’ This was Billy Graham’s favorite bible verse.
He chose only to boast in humility, sacrifice, and the cross of Christ. He was America’s Pastor, who lived his life to bring the lost and hurting to Christ.
Today, as his body lies in honor, inside the Capitol’s Rotunda, I am proud to pay tribute to long time famed evangelist, Billy Graham. On a dairy farm located outside Charlotte, North Carolina, Billy Graham was born November 7, 1918.
He grew up like most rural 1920s American children. He was raised in a colonial-style house with indoor plumbing.
He lived a quiet country life where he helped work the farm, played baseball, and went to church on most Sundays. In 1934, at the age of 16, he was saved during a revival meeting led by Dr. Mordecai Ham.
After high school, he moved to Tennessee and enrolled in a small Christian school, Bob Jones College, for half a semester before leaving. He found the school too strict.
He transferred to Florida Bible Institute where he continued his education and prepared himself for his future ministry. He soon felt called to preach.
In Florida, he joined a Southern Baptist Convention church, and was ordained to preach in 1939. He began preaching at small churches and revival meetings.
He graduated with a bachelor’s in theology and decided to further his spiritual training at Wheaton College in Illinois. With a deep faith in God, 21 year old Graham arrived at Wheaton College in 1940 as a tall, gentle man with a booming voice whose one goal was to preach the gospel.
Here he met his future wife, Ruth Bell. Ruth, the daughter of medical missionaries, was raised in China.
She prayed that God would let her live out her life as a missionary. God gave her Billy Graham.
After graduating with a bachelor’s in anthropology, Graham married Bell on August 13, 1943 in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. ‘‘There would have been no Billy Graham . . . had it not been for Ruth,’’ said the late T. W. Wilson.
She was his anchor and advisor for over 63 years. Graham discovered God’s call was to lead others to Christ by becoming an evangelist.
He first made national attention during his Los Angeles Crusade in fall 1949. Under a white tent, 30 year old Graham preached over 65 sermons to more than 350,000 people.
Overnight, he became a household name. The Billy Graham Crusades were heard all over our world between 1947 and 2005.
He filled large arenas and stadiums across our country with a focus of bringing people to Christ. Long before churches were ready for racial integration, he integrated his crusades.
His Crusades made it to my neck of the woods three times: in 1952, 1965 and 1981. In 1952, half million Texans came out to hear Graham preach. Roy Rogers and Dale Evans gave their testimony, too.
The brand new Astrodome opened its doors for 10 days to Graham in 1965. Lyndon B. Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson attended.
At 63 years old, Graham preached at Rice Stadium in 1981. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was founded in 1950.
It was made up of a core team who created the ‘‘Modesto Manifesto,’’ a covenant to ensure the integrity of his ministry. Millions more could now hear him on the radio and see him on TV.
Graham understood the power of the media. He also became one of the world’s best-selling authors.
He became a world evangelist called to spread the good news. Graham was called the Pastor to our Presidents.
He met with all post war Presidents up to Obama. Our country called on him in times of celebration and tragedy.
He delivered invocations at presidential inaugurations. He preached at the Washington National Cathedral, three days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
His message gave hope and healing to a shocked nation. At the age of 77, he jointly received the Congressional Gold Medal in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol with his wife, Ruth.
Ruth passed away in the summer of 2007 at their home in Montreat, North Carolina. They had five children: Gigi, Anne, Ruth, Franklin and Ned.
They had 19 grandchildren. They are all involved in the ministry.
In his later years, Graham was asked if he has any regrets. He replied, ‘‘although I have much to be grateful for as I look back over my life, I also have many regrets. I have failed many times, and I would do many things differently. For one thing, I would speak less and study more, and I would spend more time with my family.’’
At his 95th birthday celebration, Graham delivered his last message. He recorded a video that featured clips from his home in Montreat, North Carolina.
His message was delivered in a quieter voice but provided a powerful message. He expressed concern for our nation, ‘‘Our country’s in great need of a spiritual awakening,’’ he declared. ‘‘There have been times that I’ve wept as I’ve gone from city to city and I’ve seen how far people have wandered from God.’’
Today, I honor the life of Billy Graham and his ministries that have touched millions of people worldwide. There can never be another Billy Graham.
God used a farm boy with a gentle heart to preach his truth.
And that’s just the way it is.