Yesterday, the late Reverend Billy Graham was the fourth civilian to lie in honor in the United States Capitol. Ahead of this historic honor, House Republicans, led by Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL), took to the House floor to share their favorite memories and remember the life and legacy of America’s Pastor.
Here’s what you may have missed:
REP. RANDY HULTGREN (R-IL):
Mr. Speaker, I am so grateful for so many of my colleagues who were able to join us tonight to remember Reverend Billy Graham, born November 7, 1918, and died February 21, 2018. Billy Graham was a lion of the Christian faith and a believer in the all-encompassing love of God for all people. I knew Billy Graham from such an early age: knew of him, knew of his ministry, and was struck even more so most of my growing up years in Wheaton, Illinois, where Billy Graham went to school, met his wife. Much of his ministry started in Wheaton and in that area around Wheaton. His ministry spanned generations of American religious thought and culture, but his core message remained unchanged throughout his entire lifetime. His evangelistic gatherings attracted millions throughout the globe for decades. His name is known around the world, as many have said tonight, maybe one of the most recognized names and most respected throughout his entire lifetime.
I remember way back in 1971—I was 5 years old—my mom and dad brought me down to McCormick Place down in downtown Chicago, to be part of the 1971 Billy Graham crusade. My dad was a counselor at that crusade. I was a little 5-year-old boy, but I still remember that night. I remember the power of the message, I remember the power of this messenger of God sharing his love for us, but also the truth of the love that Jesus has for us. That he gave everything so that I could have hope, so that I could have new life. Even as a little boy, that affected me. It moved me. It moved me so much that it had me ask more questions of my own mom and dad when I got home.
And, ultimately, it was that same year, right around that time, when I recognized that I was sinful, even as a little boy, that I was selfish, that I needed help, I needed a savior, and that I needed someone to pay a price that I couldn’t pay. And as Billy Graham had stated, and as my mom and dad had taught me, and as my own grandpa had taught me, only Jesus could pay that price, and he wanted to do it to give me that free gift of redemption, the hope that we can have only through Jesus. That was the story and the message of Billy Graham.
Jumping forward quite a few years, I had the privilege, just 12 years ago, of being down in Louisiana. I went to the Louisiana State Penitentiary. It is also known as Angola. Louisiana State Penitentiary was known as the bloodiest prison in all of America for decades and decades and decades—more killings and more violence than any other prison. And then something happened. God used some people, specifically a warden there, Warden Cain, who came, and others, to change the hearts of these inmates. They brought a seminary into this Louisiana State Penitentiary.
Now, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of prisoners in Louisiana State Penitentiary have gone through seminary—New Orleans Seminary—that is right there in the prison, and have gained their own Bible graduate degrees of being pastors, although they are still in prison. One of the things that changed in Louisiana State Penitentiary—it had been when prisoners died in prison, and almost all of them die there, because life means life in Louisiana—what happened before was, when prisoners died, they would just be thrown in a ditch in the back behind the cafeteria and thrown some dirt on top of them. The warden and others felt like this was absolutely inhumane treatment for anybody, even prisoners, so they changed something.
They have a woodworking program there, and the inmates of Angola, Louisiana State Penitentiary, started making caskets for their fellow prisoners who would die in prison. They handcraft these caskets so that they are actually gorgeous, handcrafted, recognizing that every life is of infinite value because God lived and died for that life. Well, Franklin Graham, Billy’s son, was down in Louisiana State Penitentiary a few years ago. He went on a tour there, saw these caskets that were being made for inmates, went back and talked to his mom and dad. Billy Graham and Ruth Graham said: Do you know what? We want to be buried in caskets that were made by prisoners.
I am so excited. Tomorrow, this unbelievable honor of Billy Graham being laid in honor in the United States Rotunda, one of only four people who have had that great honor, but also the story that is going to be told, that Billy Graham is going to be laid in the rotunda in a casket that was made by prisoners in Louisiana State Penitentiary. What an amazing statement of humility of recognizing that we are all the same. We are all broken people, we all need saving, whether we are preaching to millions and millions of people, or whether we are in prison for the rest of our lives because of the mistakes we have made. We all cannot reach that standard, that perfect standard, to be with God forever. We need someone to help us reach that, and only Jesus can help us do that.
Billy Graham recognized that. The statement is going to be very clear in the rotunda, just outside of these doors tomorrow over the next day and a half, of recognition of his life, and then, ultimately, he will be buried there. I remember back—and I will end with this—just the message of Billy Graham very clear. Two questions that I think were so important for Billy Graham. One he talked about in his book, ‘‘Just As I Am.’’ He said: The first question I have for God when I get to heaven is, Why me? Why me, a farm kid from North Carolina that could barely make it through school? Why me? Why did you choose me as an instrument? And I think the answer to that question goes back to Isaiah 6:8. That when Isaiah heard the Lord say, ‘‘Whom shall I send,’’ Isaiah said, ‘‘Here I am, Lord, send me.’’
That is exactly what Billy Graham did. He said: Here I am, Lord, send me. Broken, imperfect, not a great speaker, but here I am, send me. And through that willingness, millions and millions and millions of lives were touched. The last question was one that I heard when I went to that crusade in 1971. And it was: Who is Jesus to you? This person of Jesus that has impacted more people in this world than any other person, who is Jesus to you? It was a question that I had to struggle with, even as a 5-year-old. I continue to learn and grow and understand Jesus. And different people have different ideas of who Jesus is. No one can deny he was a real person who had more impact on this world than anybody else. We talk about the impact that Billy Graham has had. Jesus is the reason
for the impact that Billy Graham had. So he asked the question: Who is Jesus? And I think it is worth the study, to take the time to look into who was this man who lived 2,000 years ago, yet affected everything. Even our calendar is adjusted to his life. Who is this Jesus? As you dig in and you ask questions and study, the question is either: Is this Jesus who he said he is or isn’t he? Is he a liar? Is he a lunatic? Or is he Lord?
Lord and Savior, the only hope, the light of this world, I believe that that is exactly who this Jesus is. It was what Billy Graham talked about. Mr. Speaker, I want to close with a verse many people remember from the Billy Graham crusades. The closing of those crusades were led with a call for people to come forward, but also with an amazing hymn, ‘‘Just As I Am.’’ I want to read a verse or two, and then close:
Just as I am, without one plea,
But that thy blood was shed for me,
And that thou bidst me come to thee,
O lamb of God, I come, I come.
Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O lamb of God, I come, I come.
Thank you, Billy Graham. Thank you for your faithfulness. Thank you for sharing this message of hope with so many people. We are so honored to recognize him and to thank his family.
REP. ROBERT ADERHOLT (R-AL):
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Illinois for arranging this opportunity for us to remember the life and legacy of Dr. Billy Graham, although I have to say it is not an easy task to find words that sum up his life, not because Billy Graham is not worthy, but because words and a few sentences seem incapable of describing a life that had such a large impact on, literally, the entire world. I had the great opportunity to meet Dr. Graham just a few feet from here several years ago at one of the many Presidential inaugurations he attended.
While I only had that chance to meet him one time, Billy Graham was one of those people whom you felt like you knew. His honesty and his openness in preaching the gospel made him seem like a close, personal friend. I have fond memories growing up in my hometown of Haleyville, Alabama, of being at my grandparents’ home, and if a Billy Graham Crusade was being televised, you can rest assured that we were watching it around their television, regardless of what was on the other networks. He was very clear in how he presented the gospel, that whosoever believeth in the son would have eternal life.
He will be greatly missed by a world that desperately needs more people like Billy Graham, but we can take great comfort in knowing that he has now made it home with his Maker. Author James Allan Francis, in writing about the impact of Jesus Christ on the world, wrote this: ‘‘All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this Earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.’’
That one solitary life, of course, is of Jesus Christ, who brought salvation to the world through faith in Him and in Him alone. While no one could ever come close to having an impact on the world like Christ did, I believe the late Billy Graham was one of those great messengers, probably the best that we have seen any time in recent history, and he will long be remembered for the message that he gave about a personal salvation in Jesus Christ.
REP. JODY HICE (R-GA):
Mr. Speaker, what an honor it is to likewise stand. I remember the first live crusade I ever went to where Billy Graham was there in Atlanta in the early 1970s. As a young pastor and as a pastor for almost 20 years, I likewise had the opportunity to meet him. As a young pastor, he signed a Bible for me, which today still remains a treasure.
But what we don’t need to forget is the message that he gave us. It is the message of Scripture. It is the message of God. It is a message that talks about all of us and our condition, that we are sinful, that we are separated from God, that we have committed things that separate us eternally unless they are dealt with.
That gospel message from the Scripture that Billy Graham so eloquently shared was that God loves us, and He gave His son to die in our stead. I noticed the other day we are told that archaeologists may have found the signature of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah. When I thought of that, I actually thought of Billy Graham and how he would have taken that Isaiah passage in chapter 53 and made a gospel message from the Old Testament prophet, where he said in chapter 53 that all of us, like sheep, have gone astray, that everyone has gone his own way. Yet God has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Here we are, and here is our sin. Here comes Christ without sin, and God laid on Him the iniquity of us all. As much as we remember Billy Graham these days, let us never forget the importance of his message and never
forget the message. Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues and I urge America to hear the gospel message and to respond in faith to the love and the grace of God through Jesus Christ that Billy Graham so powerfully presented to all of us.
REP. ROBERT PITTENGER (R-NC):
Mr. Speaker, I thank Mr. Hultgren for assembling this great group together. We treasure this opportunity to honor Dr. Billy Graham. Each of us has a special memory of Billy Graham. I can recall having graduated from college, my first job was with Campus Crusade for Christ. I lived in Dallas, Texas, to prepare for a big meeting, a convocation that brought 84,000 young people. I was asked in 1971 if I would like to caddy for Billy Graham. He was playing in the Byron Nelson Golf Classic with Arnold Palmer, Bob Hope, and Byron Nelson. I can assure you we chased golf balls all over the golf course. It was a great occasion. But what I saw as a young believer in Christ—I had come to Christ in my senior year in college—I saw a man who looked you in the eye. He didn’t look at his watch. He cared about people. Billy Graham didn’t walk over people to reach the world. He understood the importance of every person before God. I think that is why his ministry and his mission was so outstanding with Presidents, kings, or cab drivers, whoever it might be, the millions of people who came to Christ because of him.
On this meeting that we planned in Dallas, 250,000 people came to downtown Dallas. They heard Billy Graham and Johnny Cash. It was a great assembly. But through my years, the next decade, working for Dr. Bright with Campus Crusade, I had the occasion to be around Dr. Graham on many occasions. On one such occasion, I picked him up at the airport in 1975 here in Washington and was taking him back to the hotel. He said to Dr. Bright: the next challenge we have in the world today is terrorism. He said that this group who doesn’t honor God and they don’t honor Christ are going to be the force we deal with.How remarkable that it was Billy Graham who helped heal our Nation after 9/11 as he spoke to that National Cathedral to bring the message of hope in God.
Yes, I went with Billy to his crusades in Cleveland, Dallas, and Charlotte. In fact, the first time he ever brought together young people, he had a Friday night big crusade for young people. They came out by the tens of thousands. Michael W. Smith played, Jars of Clay, and D.C. Talk. Billy could reach anybody because he was real and he was personable. They understood him. His message was clear—so simple—that God loves us, He has a plan for our life, and Jesus Christ is the means to that plan. He died on the cross for our sin, that we could receive Christ, know Him, and know eternal life.
He gave that message all over the world. I have met people in Romania, Czech Republic, and the former Soviet Union—now Russia—all over the world who met Christ because Billy Graham came, and he took the gospel to them. Probably in my funniest moment to have a conversation with him was with Franklin, his son. Now, Franklin will charge hell with a water gun. Franklin will go anywhere. He was headed to Moscow. I was with him on a little plane, it was a twin engine Mitsubishi. We stopped in Burlington, Vermont, and then we stopped over in Nova Scotia to stay overnight at a little $6 motel. The phone rang while we were checking in. The man said: Yes, he is
here, and he gave the phone across the counter to Franklin. Franklin said: Hello? Yes, Daddy. Yes, sir, I am headed to Moscow. Yes, sir. I have got another pilot. Yes, sir. Robert Pittenger. He is going with me. At that point, his father, said: Robert Pittenger? I thought he had more sense than that. That was Billy. He knew his son, and he loved his son. But Franklin will take his gospel just like his father, just like every single person in that family. Probably the greatest legacy to Billy Graham is the testimony in all of our lives through his own children who followed him into the ministry.
So I commend our Nation for honoring him in the way that we are. He will lay and he will be a part of this great assembly, this great Capitol, forever as a statue. I thank Mr. Hultgren for bringing us together, and I thank the Lord for sending His messenger, Billy Graham.
REP. JACKIE WALORSKI (R-IN):
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to celebrate the incredible life of a great man. The Reverend Billy Graham spent his life serving God and proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. Many who heard him share the Good Word considered him to be America’s pastor. But throughout his life, he was always a humble and faithful servant. Decades ago, I had the opportunity to attend a Billy Graham Crusade at Notre Dame with my family. I will never forget seeing so many people having the opportunity to hear the message that God loves you—a very simple message. No matter who you are, no matter your background, Billy would declare: God loves you. Billy Graham brought this message of compassion, hope, and the power of God’s grace to millions of people from all walks of life. He also brought it to the leaders of the free world as a friend and counselor to the Presidents of both parties.
Tomorrow he will lie in honor in the Capitol rotunda. It is fitting to honor him as we honor our Nation’s leaders, not just because they changed history, but because he changed our hearts. His greatest legacy is the people he helped to be closer to the Lord. Mr. Speaker, Billy Graham is home now. We give thanks to God that He raised up such a humble man with a servant’s heart, and we pray that his powerful message will live on.
REP. TOM GARRETT (R-VA):
Mr. Speaker, it is an incredible honor to stand today in honor of the legacy of the Reverend Billy Graham. The population of the United States when Reverend Graham was born was 103 million. Over the course of his life, Reverend Graham spoke to more than twice as many people who existed in the country the day he was born in person about the greatest gift that one can ever be given, and that is the gift of eternal life and salvation by a Creator so benevolent as to look the other way on the undeniable sins of each of us.
So as I look to try to leave an impact on the world, I understand that people far greater than me have left far greater an impact than I could ever leave. I want to use Reverend Graham’s words in closing to honor Reverend Graham not for who he was, but for his commitment to his Savior Jesus Christ.
Reverend Graham said: When wealth is lost, nothing is lost. When health is lost, something is lost. And when character is lost, all is lost. Reverend Graham said: The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or material things accumulated in one’s life, but a legacy of character and faith.
I think most appropriately, in closing, he said: I look forward to death with great anticipation to meeting God face to face. Finally, he said: I haven’t written my own epitaph. I am not sure I should. Whatever it is, I hope it will be simple and it will point people not to me, but to the God that I served. I thank Billy Graham, and I pray God would send us more. Amen.
DEL. AUMUA AMATA RADEWAGEN (R-AS):
Mr. Speaker, many decades ago, a missionary named John Williams made the long and difficult journey in the 1800s to bring Christianity to the people of the Pacific islands, including American Samoa.
He and the others in his footsteps in those early years probably surpassed their fondest hopes. Today, faith and church provide a strong foundation to a very large percentage of our population. I think he and Billy Graham would have understood each other very well, though their ministries are separated by more than a century. Billy
Graham’s influence went around the world rapidly and powerfully, and seemed divinely timed to coincide with the rise of the communications and travel of the 20th century. As he lies in honor this week at the U.S. Capitol, it is a new opportunity for a younger generation to learn more of his exceptional life and hear his message once more—that God loves each of us, and when times seem troubled around us, there is someone greater to depend on.
As Scripture says: ‘‘How shall they hear without a preacher?’’ Billy Graham answered that call. He described himself simply: a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ. That life’s purpose defined him, and what a life it was.
REP. MIKE BOST (R-IL):
Mr. Speaker, I thank my good friend for putting this on. Let me say that as many of the people who have spoken here tonight have talked about how Billy Graham spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, at a young age, Billy Graham, if you read his history, took a walk through the woods and devoted his life to Christ.
He understood what was written in Matthew 22 when Christ was asked, Which is the greatest commandment? He said that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. The second is like unto it, to love your neighbor as yourself. He understood those commandments. But most of all, he understood the commission that was given at the end of Matthew: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Billy Graham understood this. He understood it, and he was also very, very humble. I want to take, if I can, just a moment to go over something that was written by the author Max Lucado about a meeting that Michael W. Smith and his pastor had. I will just read it: ‘‘A few hours before the event,’’ where Michael W. Smith and Max Lucado were going to go on stage together, ‘‘Michael and I met to go over the weekend’s schedule. But Michael was so moved by what he had just experienced, he could hardly discuss the retreat. He had just met with Billy Graham for the purpose of planning Reverend Graham’s funeral. The famous evangelist was, at the time, 94 years old. He was confined to a wheelchair, on oxygen. His mind was sharp and spirits were high. But his body was seeing its final days. So he called Michael. And he called for his pastor. He wanted to discuss his funeral. He told them that he had a request.’’ They both said: Of course, anything. What is it? He said: It is to do with the funeral. They said: Yes? He said: Would you not mention my name? They said: What? He said: Could you not mention my name? Just mention the name of Jesus.
Mr. Speaker, you see, Billy Graham has preached to over 1 billion people. He has filled stadiums on every continent. He has advised every President of the last half century. He has consistently been the top of every ‘‘most admired’’ list, yet he wants to be anonymous at his funeral and only call on Jesus’ name. 1 Peter 55 said: God resists the crowd, but gives grace to the humble. For a man like this to hold and be humbled when the world knew him. John 15:8 says: By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
There is no question whose disciple Billy Graham was. On February 21, I don’t doubt that he heard these words: ‘‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.’’ We just pray that God sends us more like him.
REP. TED BUDD (R-NC):
Mr. Speaker, it is not every day that I get to speak on behalf of someone who has changed the lives of millions of people across the globe, but today, I do. Billy Graham, who passed away last week, was known as America’s pastor, and rightly so. When I was spending time this week in the district, someone who is a baseball fan came up to me and said: Do you know who’s got the most saves in Yankee Stadium? I said: ‘‘Sorry, I don’t know my baseball history that well.’’
He said: It was Billy Graham, in 1957. I had to laugh to think that it was truly God who did the saving. But let’s think for a minute about Billy Graham. He was born in 1918 on a dairy farm in Charlotte, North Carolina, just south of my district. His crusades in the 1950s attracted thousands of people and shaped the beliefs of a generation by introducing many to the evangelical faith. In July of 1957, Graham invited Martin Luther, King., Jr., to preach in
front of his audience at Madison Square Garden on the issue of racial justice. This was just months after the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Graham was a White pastor from North Carolina, and King was an African American pastor from Alabama. But both of them knew that the Lord doesn’t see skin color and that the love of Christ could heal any racial division. Mr. Speaker, in today’s polarized political culture, we could learn a thing or two from their friendship.
Throughout his life, he met with 12 Presidents, dating back to Harry Truman. President Eisenhower called Graham ‘‘one of the best ambassadors our country has,’’ and John F. Kennedy brought Graham in before his inauguration to express his worry over the moral and spiritual condition of the Nation. Aside from his role in the civil rights movement and vocal opposition to communism, he uplifted the souls of millions of Americans. By introducing them to the love of Christ, Graham gave hope to the hopeless and love to those who were in need. Mr. Speaker, while our economy now is growing and wages are rising, Americans have still become increasingly more isolated, more lonely, and more depressed. This social crisis needs to be addressed but can’t be solved by a bill that we pass in Congress or an executive action by any President. We have gotten to a point in our country where too many people put their hope in elected officials. These people will most certainly be let down, because elected officials, like everyone else, are fallen, imperfect, sinful people.
Graham knew this, and he knew that the only person who would not let us down is Christ himself, and that we should trust in him for the forgiveness of our sins and have everlasting life. This is now the life Billy Graham will enjoy forever.
REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX):
Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend for putting this together. The loss of Billy Graham to this country, to this world, is more profound than any lips can ever express. As Ted mentioned, he was born in 1918, and married Ruth in 1943. What a dynamic couple they were. How devoted they were to each other. They had five children. I have come to know and dearly love Anne. I have met and come to know Franklin to a lesser extent.
But he knew, he believed, he preached that you don’t go to Heaven by being a grandchild of someone. You have to have that personal relationship with the Lord as an individual child of God. It is not something you can inherit.
He has been called home. He spent his life trying to persuade people that he loved to accept Jesus with the words that Jesus uttered: I am the way, the truth, the light. No one gets to the Father, but by me. He believed with all his heart that, unless someone professed Jesus Christ as Savior, they had no chance of getting to Heaven. We know from Jesus that greater love hath no one than a man that lay down his life for his friends. We have paid tribute to people who have laid down their life in one great moment of saving others. We have heard of those type of heroic actions at the school in Parkland in trying to save others. Yet, this man, for 99 years, or at least after he accepted Christ, laid down his life day after day after day for others, trying to help them come to a personal relationship with Jesus so that he could share eternity with Him in Heaven. That is his belief. That is my belief.
Yet, several years ago, we passed what is called a hate crimes bill. I said at some point it would be used to prosecute a preacher for simply reading Scripture from the Bible, so I can’t help but wonder if he has been called home so he can never be charged with a hate crime. We live in a time when things have gotten so perverse that there are actually people who say that these evangelical Christians are so hateful, so mean, they actually believe that if you don’t think exactly like they do, you go to hell.
Well, that is a perversion of the one religion that is 100 percent based on love. God so loved the world, He sent His son. His son so loved the world, He laid down His life for others. Billy Graham has laid down his life. He has put a marker down. In his memory, we can give no greater memorial than that we persevere and we perpetuate that love in bringing others to eternal life with us.
REP. DAVID ROUZER (R-NC):
Mr. Speaker, it is an honor to pay tribute today to the late Reverend Billy Graham, a very cherished Christian leader and exemplary North Carolinian. Born on a dairy farm almost 100 years ago in Charlotte, North Carolina, Billy Graham grew up learning the value of hard work, personal commitment, and developed an unwavering commitment to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
After being ordained and graduated from Wheaton College, Billy married the love of his life and fellow student, Ruth McCue Bell. Shortly after, he began preaching throughout the United States and Europe, emerging as a rising young evangelist. By 1949, at the young age of 31, Billy was launched into international prominence following his Los Angeles crusade. Originally scheduled for just 3 weeks, the crusade in Los Angeles had to be extended to more than 8 weeks, due to the overwhelming interest and overflow crowds.
During his lifetime, Reverend Graham preached all over the world, from remote villages in Africa to the Middle East to the former Communist bloc. I find this feat quite notable, considering the hostility that communists and tyrants of all stripes have for Christianity and their hatred for the spread of the Gospel.
Without question, Billy Graham was preaching in hostile territory; and without question, God protected him. It is said that his ministry reached an estimated 215 million people in more than 185 countries, and probably many more than that. After hearing the messages and teachings of the Holy Scriptures, many of those millions accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior. There is no doubt that Billy Graham was called by God to share His Word, and he did so with wisdom and humility. In fact, I believe he heeded that call as well, if not better, than anyone else ever has. His legacy and influence in the world will continue to be felt for generations to come. If there has ever been a good and faithful servant, it is most certainly Billy Graham.
REP. GARY PALMER (R-AL):
Mr. Speaker, tomorrow will we witness something that we have never seen before: the laying in honor of the body of an American who was not a government official, didn’t lead a political movement, and wasn’t a war hero or social movement hero. The Nation will mourn a man who was single-minded in his devotion to one thing, whose life and vocation centered on one thing and one thing only: proclaiming the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ.
I hope we pay close attention to this. We will most likely never see it again. In Mark, Jesus tells his disciples to ‘‘go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.’’ Few people followed this instruction more faithfully than the Reverend Billy Graham and with as much success and impact. Billy Graham has been called America’s Preacher. But the fact of the matter is that he was, for many decades, the most recognized and respected evangelical in the world. Reverend Graham preached the Gospel to more than 200 million people during his more than 400 crusades and rallies in more than 185 countries and territories. The impact of those reached through TV, radio, video, and the internet is unquantifiable.
Reverend Graham did this sacrificially, giving up opportunities for other, much more lucrative opportunities that most people would have jumped at were they given the opportunity. Moreover, Reverend Graham estimated that he was gone from home for about 60 percent of his children’s adolescence. Despite being a pseudo-single mom, his wife, Ruth, understood the importance of the sacrifice. She once said: ‘‘I’d rather have a little of Bill than a lot of any other man.’’
At a time when Christians are so often shunned and ridiculed, particularly those who have major followings, Billy Graham was almost universally regarded as a steady and well-respected voice. He appeared on Gallup’s list of most admired men in America 60 times since 1955. That is every year since the research firm began asking the question.
He counseled and covered in prayer every President, from Truman to Trump. Former President Clinton said: ‘‘When he prays with you in the Oval Office or upstairs in the White House, you feel he’s praying for you, not the President.’’ That is the magnitude of this man: no matter how big or small you were, he cared about you, not your position. Titles and wealth and social status didn’t matter to Reverend Graham. The only position of a person that mattered to him was their eternal position before God. Race did not matter either.
Reverend Graham was courageous. When other church leaders remained silent, he was an outspoken advocate for racial equality, consistently stating: ‘‘Christ belongs to all people.’’ In 1951, he called for the Southern Baptist Convention to accept Black students at their colleges. At a 1953 crusade in Tennessee, he personally took down ropes segregating the audience. In 1957, during his crusade in New York, he invited Martin Luther King, Jr., to open one night with a prayer. Despite his actions, he later said he wished he would have done more to help Dr. King. In 1964, just months after the bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church, Reverend Graham brought his crusade to Birmingham, Alabama. Before he agreed to come, Reverend Graham insisted that the audience be integrated. Over 30,000 people attended, making it, at the time, the largest integrated audience in the history of Birmingham.
The next year, he spoke to an integrated audience in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, with University of Alabama President Frank Rose and head football coach Paul ‘‘Bear’’ Bryant with him on the stage. Mr. Speaker, I don’t believe there is or will be anyone else in our lifetime who so clearly and effectively called people out of spiritual darkness into the light than Billy Graham.
Untold millions were exposed to the saving message of the Gospel through his ministry. I mourn the void of moral and spiritual authority that, with his death, has been left in this world, but I rejoice in knowing that he is finally at home and at rest with God. As it is written about David in Acts 13:36, so it can be said of Billy Graham. He served God’s purpose for his generation.
REP. ADRIAN SMITH (R-NE):
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to share and reflect, just briefly, on Reverend Billy Graham. What a tremendous legacy he leaves in so many forms, and I think of how his humility has had such an impact on so many. I was one of the thousands in a stadium at a crusade in California back, I believe, in 1985, and to personally witness the impact that that meeting had was a great opportunity. But I also realized how one person can really impact the world and how his efforts have led to humanitarian efforts, whether it is his family members or others, really stepping out and ministering to others all around the world.
So I am very grateful to honor Reverend Billy Graham for certainly his stewardship of religious freedom. I hope that we can all reflect on our country and religious freedom and how important it is and hopefully follow in the footsteps of someone who, I think, as the list of most admired Americans would reflect, with Reverend Graham being on that list for 60 years—that someone like that can have such a great impact. So I appreciate this opportunity.
REP. BARRY LOUDERMILK (R-GA):
You know, we live in a city where we have vast monuments erected for people who have left an impact on this Nation or on the world. When you walk the Halls of this grand and beautiful Capitol, there are statues of those who have made significant marks and changes to this Nation. As I stand here today, I think of the gentleman who is going to lay in honor in the rotunda tomorrow, how he left such an impact on the world. He is probably the greatest impact on this Nation and this world of modern times.The monument to him is in the hearts of literally billions of people who he touched with one simple message: God loves you.
That was as simple as Billy Graham would speak to the hearts of millions of Americans that God loves you and he cares about you individually as a person. That resonated so strong that it is estimated that—and this was in 2008—that through his ministries and his radio and television and his crusades, he reached over 2.2 billion people with a simple message that God loves you, and it is a message of truth.
He has had such an impact, as had been spoken of earlier, on a number of world leaders that he impacted with that simple message. The words that he shared—and he left us many quotes, and many of us are inspired by those quotes—but the words that he used that were most impactful were the words of Jesus. He just repeated the words that Christ had given us. He was also a man of great, great courage. A lot of people don’t realize the close relationship he had with Martin Luther King, Jr. And in the 1950s, when Billy Graham came to the south and he was going to preach at one of the crusades, he noticed that there was a rope running through the middle of the congregation, a rope that separated Whites from Blacks. He was so offended, he went and asked that that rope be removed; and when the ushers refused to do it, Billy Graham went and moved the rope himself. That sparked a friendship with him and Martin Luther King, Jr. When Martin Luther King, Jr. penned his famous ‘‘Letter from Birmingham Jail,’’ he condemned a lot of churches for not being engaged in what we believed that God created everyone in his image and that they should all be equal. But Billy Graham was not one of those. He stood strong.
In fact, in 1960, when Martin Luther King, Jr., was in prison, Billy Graham paid his bail. Billy Graham has left a mark, but we still fight some of the battles that he warned us of and he fought back then. A couple of the quotes that have meant so much to me that Billy Graham left us with is one that God’s will will not take us to where God’s grace will not sustain us, knowing he was preparing us for battles that we have to fight.
He also stated that the Founders who penned our Constitution believed in a freedom of religion, not a freedom from religion. And finally, even though we are in a time of crisis in this Nation, things are happening we don’t understand, the last quote that I will leave you with that Billy Graham said is: ‘‘I’ve read the last page of the Bible. It’s all going to turn out all right.’’
REP. DOUG LAMALFA (R-CA):
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate Mr. Hultgren for leading this effort here tonight but also his great spiritual counsel and partnership in this building here. It is very much appreciated. Indeed, he is one of God’s great servants. So, you know, as I harken back on my years of when we saw Billy Graham on TV and the inspirational character he was, and all my colleagues here tonight have alluded to it as well, he lived a very, very full life, a selfless life. And when I think about the leaders that have come through Washington, indeed, what is this town named for? George Washington, who is probably the single most selfless politician I can ever think of in terms of giving of service, putting himself last and the country first. He didn’t want to be king. He didn’t really want to preside so much, but he wanted to help. God was always on his side.
And I see in Billy Graham that same kind of greatness of the founding policies, the founding values of George Washington’s and some of our Founders manifested, in a man who reached and saved millions in this country over those years with his crusades. A couple of my colleagues already mentioned his interaction with Dr. King.
And with this being Black History Month, the last couple of days of it here, I thought it would be appropriate to touch on that as well because Billy Graham helped be a force in the civil rights movement, showing the way for others who may have been hesitant or breaking down the barrier for those who still wanted to sustain segregation.
My colleague mentioned the Chattanooga rally there where he himself went down when the ushers would not do it, and he removed those ropes so it would be integrated because, in God’s eyes, all are equal, and then setting out in the Constitution all are created equal.
So Billy Graham sustained that in his years of friendship with Dr. King, and showing that he was a nonpartisan, nonracial leader, helped saved the lives of all men who are created equal. So that goes so far that he is willing to put it on the line. He made people mad. He made the head usher resign that day when he made that courageous—but what he probably felt wasn’t courageous at all—but the right action. So Billy Graham, even to his last day when he made a short video, was all about informing people about Jesus, about the salvation they could have if they would just embrace Jesus and find what eternal life really is all about, that it isn’t what treasures we store here on this planet but the ones we store in Heaven when we embrace Him.
There will never be another like him, but we can always remember him with pride. And as he would say himself, that his stores of treasure are up in Heaven. And he will be even stronger up there with his legacy and his memory and his family members that go on to do what he did. So God bless Billy Graham.”
REP. PETE OLSON (R-TX):
Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend from Illinois. No one knows how many lives and souls Reverend Billy Graham saved. We know that for every one he saved, he saved two, two saved four, four saved eight, et cetera. One life we know he saved was Louis Zamperini. Louis’ story is in a book called, ‘‘Unbroken,’’ and a movie by that same name. He was a track star, a silver medalist, 1936 games, Olympic games in Munich. In World War II, he flew B–24 bombers. That was a dangerous plane. Twice, his plane crashed. The second time, he floated the Pacific Ocean for 47 days. He said: ‘‘God, if I survive this ordeal and get back to America alive, I’ll seek You and serve You.’’
He was captured by the Japanese and spent the rest of the war in a prison war camp in Japan. A guard there he called, ‘‘The Bird,’’ knew of Louis’ fame, and he beat him to a pulp every single day. Louis said: ‘‘I was constantly being tormented by the guy. And you talk about hate. I wanted to kill him.’’ His nightmares of the POW camp came home. He was consumed by anger. One night, Louis dreamed he was strangling The Bird to death. Instead, he woke up to find out he was strangling his wife, Cynthia. He started getting drunk as a skunk every night to forget about the horrors that plagued him.
With her husband getting drunk every single night, Cynthia filed for divorce, and that is when a friend invited her to see the Reverend Billy Graham crusade in a Los Angeles tent dubbed, ‘‘The Canvas Cathedral.’’ She accepted Christ that night. She convinced Louis to attend Reverend Graham’s service. After storming out of that tent the first night, Louis returned for one more evening. That time, the Bible verse Billy Graham quoted went straight to Louis’ heart. He said: ‘‘Of all my near-death experiences, my life never passed before my eyes. But when Billy Graham quoted Scripture, my life did pass before my eyes.’’ For the first time in years, Louis remembered the promise he made God when he was floating in the South Pacific. That night, he went forward and accepted Christ, and the biggest miracle of his life was set in motion. Louis’ transformation was so complete that he returned to Japan to share the Gospel with the hundreds of Japanese troops that tortured him that he once hated. He watched many of them accept Jesus Christ.
He went to share his faith all around the world, speaking at several Billy Graham crusades, and had a great friendship with Reverend Graham that lasted until Louis’ death on July 2, 2014. Before he died, Louis said these important words: ‘‘This Billy Graham thing is a phenomenal miracle the way it started, the way it spread out. I’m one guy that got saved, and I’ve spoken to hundreds of thousands and had my testimony in papers where millions read it. One person. Think of the spider-web effect all over the world.’’ Thank God for Reverend Billy Graham. Amen, Louis. Thank God for Reverend Billy Graham.