Billy Graham is one of the best ambassadors our country has, but he told me, “I am an ambassador of heaven.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower
Billy Graham has often said, “Whether the story of Christ is told in a huge stadium, across the desk of a powerful leader, or shared with a golfing companion, it satisfies a common hunger. All over the world, whenever I meet people face-to-face, I am made aware of this personal need among the famous and successful, as well as the lonely and obscure.”
Every U.S. President since World War II has met with Billy Graham. Both Johnson and Nixon, the two who probably sought him the most, offered him high positions in government — which he quickly and politely refused.
Here are short snippets of their stories:
Harry S. Truman — In 1950 a congressman called Billy and asked, “Would you like to meet the President?” Without any briefing on protocol, he agreed. Before he left, the two prayed together. A tradition had begun.
Dwight D. Eisenhower — “Eisenhower was the first President that really asked my counsel in depth when he was sending troops into Little Rock,” said Mr. Graham. At Walter Reed Hospital, with Graham by his side, Eisenhower said he was ready to die.
John F. Kennedy — Four days before he was inaugurated as President, John Kennedy invited Mr. Graham to spend the day with him in Palm Beach. “During our conversations,” said Billy, “I became aware that he was concerned about the moral and spiritual condition of the nation.”
Lyndon B. Johnson — There was a spiritual side to Lyndon Johnson that many people did not know. Billy was probably closer to Johnson than to any other President. Every time Billy would say to him, “Let’s have a prayer,” the President would get on his knees.
Richard M. Nixon — President Nixon and Billy had been personal friends since 1950. Often he asked Billy to pray with him and read the Bible when he would visit. In the last year of Nixon’s presidency, Billy did not get to see him. Someone in the White House later relayed that Nixon said, “Don’t let Billy Graham near me, I don’t want him tarred with Watergate.”
Gerald R. Ford — Gerald Ford once said, “I’ve heard the comments from some sources that Billy mixes politics with religion. I never felt that and I don’t think that thousands and thousands of people who listen to him felt that.”
Jimmy Carter — “Billy and Ruth Graham have been to visit us both in the governor’s mansion in Georgia and in the White House,” said Jimmy Carter. “His reputation is above reproach or suspicion.”
Ronald W. Reagan — Billy met Ronald Reagan a year after he married Nancy. The two remained close friends. On March 30, 1981, after the assassination attempt on President Reagan’s life, Billy flew immediately to Washington, D.C., to comfort and pray with Mrs. Reagan.
George H. W. Bush — Billy was with President and Barbara Bush at the White House in 1991, the night that the Gulf War began. “It is my firm belief that no one can be President … without understanding the power of prayer, without faith.” said Bush, “and Billy Graham helped me understand that.”
William J. Clinton — “When I was a small boy, about 12 years old, Billy Graham came to Little Rock, Arkansas, to preach a Crusade.” Mr. Graham would not agree to segregate the audience racially, which made an impression on the young boy. Mr. Graham visited Clinton in the Oval Office after he became President. (Note: This was also during a time when many Christians were preaching that Bill Clinton was the antichrist.)
George W. Bush — George W. Bush said a turning point in his faith came during a private talk with Billy Graham along the coast of Maine in 1985. Graham’s words planted the “mustard seed in my soul” that eventually led to a decision to “recommit my heart to Jesus Christ,” he wrote.
Barack Obama — President Obama visited Billy Graham at his Montreat, N.C. home at the end of his weekend mountain vacation in April 2010. He is the first sitting president to meet with Graham at his home, where the two of them had a private prayer time and some conversation. President Obama appears to be the only President who asked if he could pray for Billy.
All of these stories indicate that Billy Graham took a high road above politics. In all of these relationships, he never sought political or personal gain. He was a man of consistent faith and personal integrity, who always put people ahead of agendas and party affiliations. If he could do it, certainly we can too.
Billy and Ruth Graham have practiced the ministry of … being friends with Presidents of both parties … always completely private, always completely genuine. — William J. Clinton
Most of the above is taken from “Billy Graham, Pastor to Presidents” from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website.