Billy Graham and the Presidents

Billy Graham is one of the best ambassadors our country has, but he told me, “I am an ambassador of heaven.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower

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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.”
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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.
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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.

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9 Responses to Billy Graham and the Presidents

  1. Wow. Those are awesome stories and a reminder that God is with us, thru thick and thin.

  2. Lisa in Sunland says:

    I don’t know about “if he could do it, certainly we can too” as though he were a lesser person than average. Billy Graham, in my view, is far greater than average. But I think that’s due to his consistently listening to and following Christ, and we certainly all should be able to do that since His spirit is within us all. Thanks for sharing a wonderful example for us!

  3. Peter Leenheer says:

    What an amazing story. Billy Graham knew his role, he was not president but the ambassador of heaven. The presidents were all put there by God, yes and they also understood their role. We would probably be in tremendous disagreement about how the presidents worked out their godly assignments. Let God be the judge. King David was a man after God’s own heart…..Bathsheba …Uriah…..Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. Yes King David was forgiven. So was Bill Clinton as an interview with Hilary recently indicated. Maybe not too many noticed that interview in the south. Have you forgiven Clinton? I have, for by the grace of God, there go I!

    Our problem with politics is that we expect our leaders to be God, yet they are human. The result is a lack of forgiveness on our part that makes Jesus cringe. Our armchair quarterbacking would be better off to pray for our leaders than to tar and feather them.

    It does well to navel gaze, why we are as critical of politics as we are. Are we the problem? Do we project our problems onto the leader? Do we even know what a leader is?

    In Deuteronomy 17:14 – 20; and I Samuel 8: 6 – till end of chapter, we read that Leaders are our choice. It saddens God that we don’t want him to rule but a king. Yet we are critical of what king we get. Maybe God is trying to get our attention to pray for the king/president/ prime minister. Forgive them for their mistakes and ask in prayer for Godly leaders. We do after all have dominion over the world….Christ gave us that authority back, what are we doing with it? Opting out of politics perhaps? Prayer makes God move, we are partners with Him. Opting out is not an option, love and prayer are the options of choice.

    I prayed years for a wife. Cried myself to sleep many times. God gave me a wife. Guess what she has faults! I found that praying for her did more good than me trying to change her. It amazes me how two such broken people can love each other. Translate that onto our leaders….we are all broken…pray….don’t be offended…pray…don’t criticize..pray!

    Sorry John, I got on a soapbox here. My timing may be way off but I felt prompted to write.

    • jwfisch says:

      Way to go, Peter. Yes, of course, get out and vote, but we only do that every couple years; you can pray all the time. We can vote and be a chard; we can pray and move mountains!

  4. I always have admired this about Billy Graham. He’s always put people and the Lord above politics. I just shake my head when I think of his son, Franklin. He has such a potential to do good work for the Lord like his father, but has given in to partisanship and the politicization of the Gospel. So sad.

    • jwfisch says:

      I’m sad, too.

    • David says:

      Yes, you so nailed it on Franklin. It’s tough, because a great many ministries he does I could get behind, but then he jumps into the headlines pandering to a political interest. In short, the politics of man avert his eyes from the ministries of God. Billy would admit he made his share of mistakes in that arena too, but he seemed to learn from them. So far, I’m not seeing that from Franklin.

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