When Billy came to town

Billy Graham held five Alabama crusades. Two were at Birmingham’s Legion Field (1964, 1972), which billed itself as “the Football Capital of the South.” Three 1965 crusades were held in college towns: Tuscaloosa, Auburn and Tuskegee. His presence was a positive contribution toward racial justice.

Fifty years ago, while a young pastor and college student, I participated in Graham’s May, 1972 crusade as a volunteer “counselor.” We were local clergy recruited to be the first to go forward during Graham’s nightly invitations. We greeted those who came forward, encouraging them to find a church home.

Graham offered daytime “School of Evangelism” speakers at First United Methodist Church, including. John Bisagno and Manuel Scott. Anthea Butler rightly critiques Graham’s Christian nationalism and his slowness to embrace racial justice, but I witnessed his 1972 Birmingham efforts to end segregation, which began with his 1953 crusade in Chattanooga. Graham matured beyond the right-wing ideology he helped spread during the heyday of the Cold War. We are all mixed bags!

From “A Look Back at Bill Graham in Birmingham,” BGEA, August 12, 2015

3 thoughts on “When Billy came to town”

  1. I am so happy to know about Billy Graham’s opposition to segregation! And in 1953, before the Supreme Court desegregated schools decision.


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