Famed evangelist Billy Graham died on Wednesday at the age of 99.
Graham was known for being a confidant to presidents like Lyndon Johnson, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. He made his personal commitment to God in 1934, according to CNN. In 1940, Graham graduated from the Florida Bible Institute, and went on to marry his wife, Ruth, in 1943. Together, the couple had five children: Virginia Leftwich, Anne Morrow, Ruth Bell, William Franklin III and Nelson Edman.
Read on to learn more about Billy’s son, Franklin Graham.
1. He Is the President and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
Today, Franklin is the president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the international Christian relief and evangelism organization Samaritan’s Purse, which brings food and medical supplies to more than 100 countries across the world.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Franklin has worked closely with five US Presidents, along with world leaders from Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America, according to Billygraham.org.
In a 2012 interview with CBS, Billy was asked how he believes he is viewed differently in the Christian Community and the secular world. Expanding on that, Franklin said, “Well, I think some people in the secular world might see me as some kind of right-wing zealot. Maybe many in the church would see me as maybe someone who is trying to hang on to the faith and who is faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
CNN points out that in the past, Franklin has landed himself in hot water on more than one occasion. At President George W. Bush’s inauguration in 2001, he preached Jesus’ name, even though the presidential inauguration is typically non-denominational. After September 11th, Franklin also called Islam a “very evil and wicked religion,” once again sparking controversy. He perhaps met the most backlash after questioning Barack Obama’s religion in an interview with MSNBC.
2. He Spoke at the Columbine High School Memorial
In 1999, Franklin spoke at the Columbine High School memorial to a crowd of over 70,000 people. A college newspaper who reported on the incident cites Graham as preaching, “Whether you are a family member grieving the loss of a loved one, a neighbor hurting deeply for them, or a member of this community that is shocked by the evil that has been perpetrated in our midst, your pastors urge you to seek Jesus.”
According to the Denver Post, the tragedy at Columbine brought a new urgency for Franklin to “tell people that Jesus Christ died for our sins.” Asked if Dylan Klebold or Eric Harris would ever be forgiven by God, Graham said, “I don’t know… because I don’t know what Eric and Dylan said before they died. If they asked for forgiveness, they will be forgiven.”
Fox also interviewed Graham on-air after the deadly mass shooting at a Texas church last November. He was asked how we, as a global community, can continue to keep our faith in the midst of a tragedy like this. Franklin responded, “Well, first of all, God loves us. We know that. And the Bible tells us that God understands pain… he understands loss, death, pain… Every one of those people who took their last breath there on the floor of that church– their next breath was in the presence of Almighty God. And for everyone who puts their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, we don’t have to worry about where we’re going to end up.”
3. He Is One of Five Children
Franklin was born as the fourth of five children to the late Billy Graham and Ruth Bell Graham. He was raised, according to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website, in a log cabin in the Appalachian Mountains outside of Asheville, North Carolina.
Franklin’s sister, Anne Graham Lotz, is the founder of AnGeL Ministries, and has authored 11 books, her most notable being Just Give Me Jesus. His sister Gigi is currently married to a man named Stephan Tchividjian. In 2015, Gigi and Stephan’s son, Tullian, resigned from the pulpit at Coral Ridge Presbyterian after admitting to having an extramarital affair. According to the Miami Herald, the incident made Tchividjian the fourth Florida megachurch pastor to resign after having an affair.
The outlet goes on to report that Tullian was kicked out of his parents home at age 16. At age 21, “bored with the party scene”, he “prayed for God to lead him.” He is quoted as saying, “I said, ‘All right, God, you take over. You’re the one who built me; you’re the one who can fix me.’’’ Tchividjian went on to receive his GED and graduate from Columbia International University in 1997.
Ruth, the second youngest, had a deeply spiritual experience at a young age. She tells Belief Net, “I really did have a genuine relationship with the Lord,” she says. “I gave my heart to Jesus when I was seven, kneeling beside my bed with my mother. At age 11, I made that commitment public by going forward at the altar call at a church revival held by a friend of my father. Daddy went with me.”
4. He Was Expelled from College for ‘Keeping a Female Classmate out past Curfew”
According to Global Oneness, Franklin was expelled from LeTourneau College in Texas in 1972 for “keeping a female student out past curfew.” As a child, he admits to being somewhat rebellious. “My mother was going to insist that I got up in time to get to school at a proper time,” Graham once told CNN. “So I started locking my door so she couldn’t come in, and she started sliding firecrackers under the door. She thought that was fun.”
Franklin was hesitant to take after his father’s profession. Speaking to CNN about becoming a preacher, he said, “I just felt that if I put myself into the pulpit, that it would be like a lightning rod for all these comparisons.”
Growing up, Graham rode motorcycles and was a frequent partier. “I just wanted to have fun… drinking the beer, and going out to the parties, and running around with different girlfriends.”
He was 22 when his father spoke to him about the decisions he had made in his life. “Franklin Graham remembers his father looking him straight in the eye and saying, ‘I want you to know that your mother and I sense there is a struggle for the soul of your life, and you’re going to have to make a choice.'” Shortly after that conversation, Franklin was reading the gospel of John alone in his hotel room and decided that like Nicodemus, who had to be reborn again, he, himself, also had to be reborn again.
5. His Daughter Is Married to Former NFL Safety Corey Lynch
Franklin married his wife, Jane, in 1974. They have four children together: William Franklin Graham IV, Roy Austin Graham, Edward Bell Graham and Jane Austin Graham Lynch.
Jane is currently married to NFL safety Courey Lynch. She has admitted in the past that growing up with a famous father was not always easy. On the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association webpage, Jane, who goes by Cissie, is quoted as saying, “I lived life with a father who was gone quite a bit, but he also took me around the world with him. By the age of 18, I’d seen things most people only dream of seeing in a lifetime.”
Cissie says when her father was away, her mother kept the children on a strict schedule. “We lived in a humble home in the mountains of North Carolina. My mom kept us on a regular routine. She drove us to school, went to sporting events—she didn’t miss anything. Her ‘no’ meant ‘no’ and her ‘yes’ meant ‘yes.’”
Ruth Graham, Cissie and Franklin’s mother and Billy’s wife, passed away in 2007.