Rev. Billy Graham, the world’s best known contemporary evangelist, and one of the nation’s most admired men for half a century, as well as the author and subject of hundreds of books over half a century, died Wednesday at age 99.
Graham’s sole motivation was to preach the gospel and he led the way using every form of media to do so—from print to film to video to Internet outreach. His 1997 bestselling autobiography, Just as I Am was reissued in 2007, and was one of five of his bestsellers among his 33 titles.
Graham’s life in publishing began as his career did, in the 1940s when he became the nations’ first field representative for Youth for Christ, an evangelical network aimed at youth trying to find a footing in faith in the postwar world. He wrote his first book, Calling Youth to Christ in 1947.
By 1957, he was a faith-and-media sensation. His New York crusade that year filled Madison Square Garden for 16 weeks, was broadcast by ABC News and set the pattern for his outreach efforts. As he traveled the globe in his international crusades, his books—always connecting the dangers of the world with his certainty that salvation in Christ was the only answer—reached broadly into American homes.
The World Aflame (1966) was on the New York Times and Time magazine bestseller lists. Angels: God's Secret Agents (1975 original and revised and expanded in 1985) was a Publishers Weekly and The New York Times bestseller. In 1983 Approaching Hoofbeats: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse hit theTimes bestseller list)
His Christian Booksellers Association bestseller in 1987, when he was 69 was titled Facing Death and the Life After. It signaled a turn to more eternal matters than the daily headlines—hope and heaven featured in his last books including 2015’s Where I Am: Heaven, Eternity, and Our Life Beyond.
By the time he retired to his mountaintop cabin in North Carolina in 2005, more than 214 million people heard God's call in Graham's stentorian voice and witnessed him deliver the Gospel—pure and uncritical—in person or by satellite links. Beyond his 417 crusades were rallies and services adding up to 226 events in the USA and 195 in foreign cities.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, now run by his son Rev. Franklin Graham, has kept his publishing legacy alive at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C.
His death—just months before his 100th birthday would have been celebrated November 7—comes just as the first of a small wave of new and expanded books on Graham, including two by top scholars, are coming out.