William Franklin Graham Jr. (November 7, 1918 – February 21, 2018) was an American Christian Protestant evangelist and an ordained Southern Baptist minister who became well known internationally after 1949. He has been called one of the most influential preachers of the 20th century. He held large indoor and outdoor rallies with sermons which were broadcast on radio and television, some still being re-broadcast into the 21st century. In his six decades of television, Graham was principally known for hosting the annual Billy Graham Crusades, which he began in 1947, until he concluded in 2005, at the time of his retirement. He also hosted the popular radio show Hour of Decision from 1950 to 1954. He repudiated segregation and, in addition to his religious aims, helped shape the worldview of a huge number of people coming from different backgrounds leading them to find a relationship between the Bible and contemporary secular viewpoints. Graham preached to live audiences of nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories through various meetings, including BMS World Mission and Global Mission. He also reached hundreds of millions more through television, video, film, and webcasts.
Graham was a spiritual adviser to American presidents and provided spiritual counsel for every president from Harry Truman to Barack Obama. He was particularly close to Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson (one of Graham's closest friends) and Richard Nixon. He insisted on racial integration for his revivals and crusades in 1953 and invited Martin Luther King Jr. to preach jointly at a revival in New York City in 1957. Graham bailed King out of jail in the 1960s when King was arrested in demonstrations. He was also lifelong friends with another televangelist, the founding pastor of the Crystal Cathedral, Robert H. Schuller, whom Graham talked into doing his own television ministry.
Graham operated a variety of media and publishing outlets. According to his staff, more than 3.2 million people have responded to the invitation at Billy Graham Crusades to "accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior". As of 2008, Graham's estimated lifetime audience, including radio and television broadcasts, topped 2.2 billion. Because of his crusades, Graham preached the gospel to more people in person than anyone in the history of Christianity.
Graham was repeatedly on Gallup's list of most admired men and women. He appeared on the list 60 times since 1955, more than any other individual in the world. Grant Wacker reports that by the mid-1960s, he had become the "Great Legitimator":
By then his presence conferred status on presidents, acceptability on wars, shame on racial prejudice, desirability on decency, dishonor on indecency, and prestige on civic events. Wikipedia