(distant choir singing) BILLY GRAHAM: A nation never falls until it starts to decay at the center.
Rome was a striking parallel to America today, a leader in world affairs, rich and prosperous, with an economy that defied collapse.
Her armies were respected by the nations of the world.
But Rome fell.
And that can happen right here today.
There's only one hope for the world.
And that is Jesus Christ dying on a cross.
You'll never have an hour like this again in your entire life-- this is it.
And if you don't come today, you may never come.
I'm asking you right now to come.
Surrender your heart and your life to Jesus Christ and say today, "I want my life changed.
I want my sins forgiven."
♪ ♪ KENNETH WOODWARD: I'd met Frank Sinatra briefly and I met Billy Graham many times.
They both had animal magnetism, almost like an aura around him.
Get up right now... WILLIAM MARTIN: He spoke to more than 80 million people in person and hundreds of millions of others on television.
You are an American, and if America is to be spared and America is to continue to be blessed and honored of God, you are going to have to become a Christian.
♪ ♪ ANTHEA BUTLER: Billy Graham is like the Protestant pope.
(cheers, applause) MARTIN: There was a war between ambition and humility.
He wrestled with that throughout his life.
♪ ♪ JOHN HUFFMAN: Billy was attracted to political power like a moth is attracted to flame.
RANDALL BALMER: He was drawn to politicians.
It was almost like a narcotic for him.
♪ ♪ UTA BALBIER: The closer he moved Christianity to politics, the more he opened up the opportunity for Christianity being used to polarize, to politicize.
He opened Pandora's box the second he stepped into the Oval Office for the very first time.
♪ ♪ Now it's my very great joy and privilege to welcome a friend who really needs no introduction.
Will you welcome, please, Billy Graham.
(applause) (indistinct chatter) (applause continues) What is it that you've got that other preachers haven't?
Well, I think, uh, David, that God gave me the gift of an evangelist.
What is the gift particularly you've got?
Well, that's what I'm saying, I believe it's a gift of the spirit of God, and when we get to Heaven, I'm going to reach over and grab David Frost...
If you're there!
Thank you, thank you!
(laughs) And I'll take you up to the Lord and I'll say, "Now, David wants an answer to this question," because actually, I cannot answer that-- I'm as surprised as anyone else.
♪ ♪ (indistinct chatter) LEIGHTON FORD: America is a land of salespeople.
(car horns) We have products to sell.
(whistle blowing, bicycle bell ringing) We have markets to exploit.
And Billy Graham started out as a salesman.
He started out selling Fuller brushes.
♪ ♪ COMMERCIAL ANNOUNCER: The sun never sets on the Fuller Brush dealer.
He is America's most famous visitor, the real friend of the housewife.
(car engine) GRAHAM: I sold brushes from door to door in the Depression period.
Many times, you'd go to the door and the lady would come and just crack the door.
And I knew that the door was soon going to slam, so I always put my foot in there, you see.
And my technique was to always offer the lady a free brush.
And of course, in those days, that appealed.
GRANT WACKER: He's a kid.
He was six-two.
By 17, he would have been tall and lean, blue-eyed, almost blond hair, and trying to make money to go to college.
He's beginning to sense at this point that he has a special gift.
He has an ability to communicate with people that is striking, and it works.
MARTIN: At the end of the summer, he was the top Fuller Brush salesman in all of North or South Carolina.
And what he learned, he said, was sincerity: You have to believe in the product.
♪ ♪ (children laughing) JEAN FORD: When we were growing up, we had Bible reading and prayer every night about 8:00.
And Mother would read the Scripture, and Daddy would always pray.
That was a habit, just like brushing our teeth.
I mean, that's what we did.
We never thought about, "Did we enjoy it?"
We just did it.
♪ ♪ BALMER: Billy Graham was born in 1918.
His parents had a dairy farm in North Carolina.
And his parents were conservative Presbyterians.
(birds chirping) MARTIN: His family life was very much like that of great many other people in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.
(indistinct voices) MARTIN: They believed in God.
And most of them believed that God wanted them to win souls, to evangelize other people, to bring them to Christ.
(birds chirping) BALMER: Young Billy Frank Graham, as he was known at the time, was in some ways a normal teenager.
He was rebelling to some degree against the strict piety of his parents, although not overtly so.
MARTIN: After he got a driver's license, he had the advantage of being able to borrow his father's car and spend luxurious nights with girls, parking, going to movies.
He really liked the girls, and they liked him.
Even though he had a head full of Scriptures and prayers, Billy wasn't completely convinced that he was a true Christian yet.
BALMER: One night, he and his friends went to hear a traveling revivalist coming through the area named Mordecai Ham.
HAM: If you're not acceptable in Heaven, do you want to know it, before it's too late?
How many of you do-- I do, lift your hand right now.
BALMER: At some point during that gathering, something Ham said connected with young Billy Frank Graham.
And he decided at that moment to embrace the religion of his parents.
MARTIN: Billy wanted to go to college at the University of North Carolina.
But his mother had come to believe that the road to Hell went right through the campus of state schools.
So she wanted him to go, as did his father, to a serious Christian college.
FRANCES FITZGERALD: He was sent off to Bob Jones College, which was one of the strictest fundamentalist colleges.
JONATHAN LEE WALTON: Prior to the late 19th century, Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians believed in the authority of Scripture, they believed that Jesus died for their sins, and they believed that they needed to convert the masses.
You had cultural transformation and intellectual developments that began to disrupt Protestant culture.
♪ ♪ BALBIER: American Protestant fundamentalism is a religious movement.
It's a religious response to everything we associate with modernity.
Technology, urbanization, the rise of sciences.
WALTON: All of a sudden, Protestants were broken up into multiple camps.
And fundamentalists were just those who dug their heels.
They drew a line in the sand.
They said, "The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it."
PREACHER: We maintain the glorious idea that the Gospel does not change.
It isn't reinterpreted from one generation to another generation.
MARTIN: In fundamentalist circles, the Bible was dictated by God directly to human agents who wrote it down without error and passed it along, and was His fully dependable word.
And so when they're looking at the Book of Genesis, and they see that God created the world in six days, and rested on the seventh, they're taking those as literal days.
♪ ♪ BALBIER: Protestant fundamentalists are driven by a particular urgency, because they expect the world to come to an end very soon.
TISBY: It's really not worth it to get involved in politics or culture.
They want to separate themselves from the world to preserve the fundamentals of the faith, to keep the faith pure.
And so they're starting their own churches.
They're starting colleges, their own publications.
We have just one obligation in this school.
That is to run a Christian school.
A thing that isn't Christian doesn't belong on this campus.
No compromise, no trimming, no cutting corners.
A Christian school, that's our job.
That would have been a very strict environment for a Presbyterian Billy Graham.
MARTIN: Dating at Bob Jones College had to be scheduled, was restricted to 15 minutes at a time in a dormitory parlor, chaperoned, no touching.
FITZGERALD: Billy couldn't stand it.
He liked playing.
And so this kind of strict demeanor of his parents' house and of Bob Jones really didn't suit him at all.
He did not do well academically, either.
He flunked math.
He was there for four months, and he was extremely unhappy.
MARTIN: Bob Jones was unflinching in his conviction that his opinions were right and those who disagreed with him were mistaken.
♪ ♪ And he predicted that Billy, when he decided to leave Bob Jones College, was not going to amount to anything.
(seagulls squawking) BALMER: Graham decides to go to Florida Bible Institute.
WACKER: He had a friend there who talked about sunshine and orange trees and a golf course right next door.
Florida Bible Institute was theologically conservative, but it was more relaxed.
(indistinct chatter) BALMER: He's still trying to figure out who he is.
And what he's beginning to learn is that the persona of a preacher suits him very well.
It's well-attuned to his gifts and to his abilities.
MARTIN: In the South at the time Billy Graham was growing up, being an evangelist, being a preacher, they were cultural heroes.
This was about as high on the status chart as you could get.
FITZGERALD: He began preaching, and he'd preach in these sort of derelict missions and the scrabbly churches with dogs in the sandy front yards.
And as a friend said, "He'd preach to anything that would stand still."
BALBIER: The confidence, the ambition grew when he realized that he was actually really good at preaching.
It was when those first people stepped forward and converted to Christ because of his preaching that he got the recognition that was so important to keep him going.
MARTIN: When Billy Graham graduated, the president noted, "Billy just wants to do something big for God.
"He's not sure what it is yet, but he wants it to be really big."
BALMER: After he graduates from Florida Bible Institute, he says to himself, "I still need more preparation, more training," so he heads off to Wheaton College.
He's trying, I think, at that point to accumulate a bit of theological ballast.
(waves splashing) But the big thing that happens for Billy Graham at Wheaton College is that he meets Ruth.
♪ ♪ MARTIN: Ruth Bell was the daughter of a Presbyterian medical missionary who had led the medical mission in Qingjiang, China.
As a child, she had dreamed of being a missionary and hoped to die a martyr's death.
♪ ♪ ANNE BLUE WILLS: She wanted to be a single woman in the plain of Tibet in the thin air... (laughs) ...by herself, preaching the Gospel to nomads.
So she wanted to be as solitary, as challenged by a kind of Christian work, as she could be.
FORD: Billy wrote Mother a letter and told her about Ruth.
And said, "Mother, I know I'm going to marry her."
MARTIN: Ruth was a good student.
Pretty much everybody acknowledged that she was a better student than he was.
He told her on the third date that he did not feel the call to be a missionary.
She eventually surrendered her missionary vocation, but nobody who knew Ruth Bell Graham ever thought she surrendered her will.
♪ ♪ (footsteps in rhythm) (indistinct chatter) MARTIN: This was a portentous time in American life.
We're coming out of the Depression and then going into war.
These were years and years of troubled times.
Prior to World War II, what we now know as evangelical Protestantism wore the label of fundamentalism.
As the nation mobilizes, many conservative Christians relabel themselves as Evangelicals.
(chatter) Youth for Christ was a by-product of this emerging new evangelicalism.
♪ ♪ Youth for Christ was a more optimistic conservative Protestantism, much more forward-looking, something that is in tune with the kind of spirit of the day, one in which America is emerging from a war and rebuilding itself.
♪ ♪ MARTIN: Youth for Christ events resembled a kind of a Christian vaudeville show.
The preachers themselves, they would dress very flashily, with bright-colored suits and bright ties, and sometimes bowties that would light up.
Their slogan was "Geared to the times, but anchored to the rock."
WACKER: You don't have to be considered a bumpkin anymore.
You don't have to be considered intellectually retrograde.
Become a part of American life.
♪ ♪ Billy is drawn in to Youth for Christ as an evangelist.
He was offered a position to be a full-time evangelist working for them.
(laughing) BALMER: Youth for Christ is, for Graham, a kind of halfway house out of the kind of strict, starchy fundamentalism of his childhood into a larger arena.
♪ ♪ LEIGHTON FORD: I can still remember going to Winona Lake, Indiana, when they had the annual Youth for Christ conference and a different preacher every night.
But Billy was different than the others.
♪ ♪ The power of that voice to make people just listen was very striking.
I once said it was like a train whistle on a prairie.
We could hear it like a sound of something in the distance, but very, very powerful.
FITZGERALD: He loved the stage.
He liked exciting people and getting them to commit to Christ.
LEIGHTON FORD: He did have that personal ability to sense, I think, people that he spoke with who were open to the message and open to him.
♪ ♪ FITZGERALD: He was incredibly energetic, and in three years, he went through doing revivals in some 47 states and all Canadian provinces.
(indistinct chatter) WACKER: The audience was never big enough for Graham.
Always had this sense of reaching out, have to do more and find different ways to do it.
BALMER: Graham comes to a point when he recognizes that even Youth for Christ is too confining for him, and this is when he decides to strike out on his own.
He chooses, of all places, Los Angeles, the home of Hollywood, and this is going to be his launching pad into his own career.
NANCY GIBBS: He has been in this spiritual battle, both internally and with his fellow evangelist and friend Charles Templeton.
Templeton's argument is, "You know, look, your really hardcore fundamentalist Gospel "is out of date.
"People don't believe that the world was literally created "in six days, and you need to update your message if you're going to get through to people."
And it creates something of a crisis of faith for a now 30-year-old Billy Graham, who is going into what is meant to be the biggest attempt he has ever undertaken to reach a lot of people.
To him, the choice was, "I either preach "the Bible as the literal word of God, or I leave the ministry."
WACKER: In a sense, Templeton is the acid eating away at Graham's self-confidence.
Graham himself begins to think that he's got to come to terms with this message that he is preaching.
(birds, crickets chirping, footsteps) He goes out into the woods and he climbs the mountain a ways.
And as the story goes, he has a kind of revelation.
GIBBS: He talks about having really asked God to guide him in this moment, at this crossroads, and feeling this sense of peace and conviction that, no, he is right to continue on this path, where he is not to be questioning any of the literal truths of the Bible, but to preach it as God's holy word.
And then he goes into the Los Angeles Crusade a liberated man, with a conviction about what it is that he is being called to do, and he never looks back.
(explosion) HARRY TRUMAN: We hoped that the Soviet Union would cooperate in this effort to build a lasting peace.
But Communist imperialism would not have it so.
WACKER: Late September of 1949, a series of events in the outside world come together the same time that Billy Graham starts his revival.
So it's a perfect storm.
And for his career, it is the catapult.
GRAHAM: I believe that tonight, we're living in the most tragic hour in the history of the entire world.
Our newspapers tell us today that rockets are being ringed around Western Europe, and these rockets can shoot atomic missiles 5,000 miles, that could reach American cities from the Soviet Union.
He was conscious of the importance of relevance.
So even though his message was absolutely grounded in a literal reading of the Bible, he made it a point to connect those lessons with what was happening in the news that day.
WACKER: He understands people are scared.
Who's behind all this?
What's behind all this?
They're strong, they're disciplined, and they're atheistic.
BALMER: He would use those fears as a way of lending a sense of urgency to his message and to his invitation to become part of the Christian faith.
GRAHAM: I believe this sincerely from the depths of my heart, that unless the Western world has an old-fashioned revival, we are done for.
We cannot last.
(voice cracks): We cannot stand the tremendous strain and stress of future days in our battle with communism unless we have a spiritual revival.
(organ playing) GIBBS: People are coming, but not a lot of people, and probably not people who are not already Christians.
The Salvation Army PR man is helping get the word out and is urging reporters to come to a press conference, which they do, and no one writes anything.
MARTIN: After a few weeks, they were thinking, "Well, maybe we'll bring it to a close."
WACKER: And he had the sense that he had failed.
MARTIN: That evening, Billy was driving up to the tent, and there were cars all over.
And he said, "What has happened?"
WACKER: One of them said, "You have been kissed by William Randolph Hearst."
Now, at this point, Hearst is one of the most prominent newspapermen in the country.
What Hearst saw in Graham is a man who is fervently anti-communist, a man who believes in law and order.
But I think, even more important, Hearst saw a way to sell papers.
Graham was flamboyant, he was attractive, he made great pictures on the front page.
♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ REPORTER: Things are happening inside the big tent, as thousands come from the home, the schools, offices, stores, and factories.
They come from Greater Los Angeles, and from cities and towns in surrounding counties, filling the tent day after day.
There are problems of fear, there are problems of sex, there are problems that face us tonight that will never be solved unless we bring them to the Lord Jesus Christ and turn our life, our burdens, our problems over to Him.
WACKER: It all came together then.
By that fall, that meeting, and the crowds, the situation, things coalesced.
The enormous results of that meeting cemented in his mind his own mission in shaping American Christianity.
♪ ♪ MARTIN: As he went home, other travelers spoke to him, wanted his autograph.
And he was just astonished.
Wherever he went, people knew who Billy Graham was.
And he soon tours the country like a rock star.
He goes to Boston and has a huge string of revivals there, takes the city by storm.
REPORTER: Mr. Graham has preached to more than two million persons in great citywide campaigns in Columbia, South Carolina, Portland, Oregon, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Atlanta, Georgia.
GRAHAM: The Lord Jesus Christ takes the hand of God, and He takes your hand, and He brings you together in reconciliation.
KEVIN KRUSE: He revels in these crowds, he revels in these moments, and he revels in the attention, and he's very good at it.
He has an ability to connect with individuals, with small groups, and to hold of hundreds of thousands, really, in sway as he talks.
The most thrilling experience to me is to look out upon a vast sea of faces, and to see thousands of men and women and boys and girls gathered under one roof, to see the mood of an audience change during the service.
♪ ♪ STEVEN MILLER: The Graham strategy was very much to associate crusades with influential leaders-- with civic leaders, politicians, celebrities, so as to have a kind of ripple effect upon the broader populace.
GIBBS: For fundamentalists who had been operating around the margins of public life and public communication, it was a surprising thing to them to see Billy Graham engaging this directly in this very secular world.
♪ ♪ WALTON: The next logical step is to show all of his followers that he actually has the ear of the powerful.
And there's no better way to do that than receiving a White House invitation.
KRUSE: In early 1950, Graham is peppering President Harry Truman with letters and telegrams begging for a visit.
Truman ignores them all.
Truman was a Baptist, and in keeping with the traditions of his faith at that point in time, was a firm believer in the separation of church and state.
He didn't like public displays of religion.
He in fact writes in his diary that he takes guidance from the Book of Matthew, chapters five, six, and seven, which are known for their injunctions against showy displays of faith.
Finally, House majority leader John McCormack puts in a good word with President Truman, and Truman relents and lets Graham come to visit.
WACKER: Graham came to the meeting with three of his associates.
MARTIN: They went to see the president with their white suits and hand-painted ties, and they looked like hospital orderlies at the racetrack.
WACKER: Toward the end of the meeting, Graham asked Truman if he could pray with Truman, and through secondhand accounts, Truman evidently said, "Well, I suppose it couldn't do any harm."
Graham grabs Truman by the shoulder and is calling down a prayer for the president.
Truman is uncomfortable the entire time, can't handle it.
♪ ♪ Things get worse when they leave.
MARTIN: When Billy and his team came out of the president's office, the reporters were all there and talking, "What did he say?
What'd he say, was it good?"
WACKER: Graham made the grievous mistake of rehearsing, as best he could remember, every word Truman had uttered in the course of that hour conversation.
MARTIN: But then they went out on the White House lawn and thanked God for the privilege of having met with the president.
And the next day, that was on the front page of all kinds of newspapers all over the country.
♪ ♪ MARTIN: Truman reacted very badly to what he took to be a show.
He said, "All Billy Graham is interested in is just getting his name in the paper."
WACKER: We have a letter from Truman to his secretary in which he said, "Do not ever let that man into the Oval Office again."
He's very green.
He's a famous preacher by then, but he's very green when it comes to understanding the ways of the world.
But he has a thick skin.
And when people would say no to him, he'd just come right back at 'em.
(chatter) Hello, how do you do?
(indistinct chatter) And one of our staff of security.
How do you do?
Thank you, sir.
Well, I love that part of Texas.
(indistinct chatter) WALTON: It's important for Billy Graham not to be perceived as a backwater revivalist.
He's not some sort of snake handler.
He's trying to bring this nation to Christ with all of the most powerful, influential figures of American society.
Unless this country is called back to God's moral law, there will be a national catastrophe.
Well, the difficulty is, I think, that we forget that while we want to do good and we want to live by high standards, and there are many thousands of people that want to obey the Ten Commandments and live up to the Sermon on the Mount, but they don't find within themselves the qualities and the power to do it.
KRUSE: Billy Graham is an ardent supporter of capitalism.
He sees capitalism and Christianity as essentially one and the same.
They're both doing good in the world.
BALBIER: For the businessman, it is great to have a revivalist preacher legitimizing capitalism, endorsing free-market capitalism.
In Europe, we see preachers preaching in favor of the welfare state.
And that is exactly what businessmen don't want in the U.S. in the 1950s.
Communism says the state is to own everything, and when the state owns everything, I believe you destroy individuality and you destroy character.
KRUSE: When Graham complains about communism, it's not just Stalin, it's FDR, it's Truman, it's people who are putting new laws on the books that regulate industry.
Putting new laws in the books that uphold unions, that elevate workers' rights.
These he sees are a threat to the American way of life.
It will be a time of world revolution and lawlessness and crime and corruption such as the world has never known!
(chatter) BALBIER: Billy Graham himself was a salesman.
He saw himself as a salesman of faith.
He said, "I'm selling "the most important thing on Earth.
Why shouldn't I promote it as well as soap?"
Want your problems solved?
Want that burden lifted?
Right now, you want those frustrations and inner conflicts quieted and you want inner serenity in your soul?
Do you want that?
You really do?
All right, you can, right now, if you let Christ come into your heart.
He'll bring you inner pleasure and inner joy that nothing else can bring.
(indistinct chatter) DOCHUK: Graham surrounds himself with a team that can act very much like a sophisticated corporation to sell their message and to win over converts.
BALBIER: They start very modestly by setting up the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in 1950, just an office in Minneapolis.
But over the next four years, there's already an increase to 80 full-time staff members.
And this tells the story of revivalism turning into a business.
I wonder if you'd take time to write that letter this week.
Remember, our mailing address is just "Billy Graham, Minneapolis, Minnesota," that's all you need, just "Billy Graham, Minneapolis, Minnesota."
Giving is a quintessential Christian duty, and everyone who attended the crusade meetings knew they were expected to make an offering.
FITZGERALD: When he founded the association, he made rules for it, that they run their finances perfectly, and so he had outside auditors and so forth coming in and running through them with a fine-toothed comb.
(typewriter, telephone ringing) BUTLER: There were a lot of other kinds of evangelists that preyed upon their members and people who came to the shows and took their money and were not sincere.
BALBIER: Billy Graham is aware that an early scandal could destroy the mission.
And that is why he's setting up his organization as a nonprofit.
He proudly claimed that he only received the salary of an ordinary minister throughout his career.
Now, what about the radio and the television?
Well, this radio broadcast on June 4 is... GIBBS: Graham was incredibly careful about the kind of moral hygiene of his operation and his daily life, where, you know, his rule was about, you know, never being in a room alone with a woman other than his wife, which can sound incredibly archaic, except when they were traveling on the crusades, that his companions would have to go into his hotel room first and search it, because they might find women hiding in his hotel room.
(laughs) (radio static) CLIFF BARROWS: This is "The Hour of Decision"!
"The Hour of Decision" has come to you today from the crusade auditorium in Atlanta, Georgia.
This is ABC, the American Broadcasting Company.
KRUSE: In November 1950, Billy Graham launches his radio program.
GRAHAM: An Associated Press dispatch in an Atlanta paper this morning states that many feel that the Third World War is just around the corner.
KRUSE: It's eventually broadcast out on three different networks, about 850 stations, and reaches an audience of about 20 million Americans a week.
It's hugely influential.
I believe that the heart of our society is our home.
KRUSE: When Graham starts on television, it's still a fairly new medium.
(playing hymn) Billy Graham's media empire takes root with incredible speed.
Soon after starting his radio program and his TV show, he establishes a movie studio called World Wide Pictures.
Hello, welcome to World Wide Pictures.
I'm glad we're going to have a few moments together.
♪ ♪ (horse whinnying) ♪ ♪ (grunting) ♪ ♪ BALMER: He and his team were able to use those new media technologies brilliantly to create Graham as a religious celebrity.
One of the most amazing things in all the universe is that God loves us.
I want you to bow your head right now and let me lead you in a word of prayer, will you?
Repent of your sins, confess that you're a sinner.
You can do it right where you are, right now!
♪ ♪ WALTON: It's important to understand that there's a strand of conservative American evangelicalism that have always viewed advanced technologies as sinful.
These are all just kind of paths to Hell-- they'll take us to Hell in a handbasket.
Please get in the car.
WALTON: But there was another group of evangelicals that came along and said, "It's not the technology itself.
"The technologies are morally neutral.
It's what you do with them."
Let's go hear him.
I can't explain it, I, I just have a feeling it's something I need.
With these movies, he's saying, "We're spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
"We are fulfilling our evangelical mission "by giving content to a sin-sick society, "where they can go to the picture show and hear a message that Christ loves them."
♪ ♪ GRAHAM: Tonight, Cliff Barrows has a very special guest, at least to me.
Ladies and gentlemen, tonight it's my privilege to introduce to you Mrs. Billy Graham.
Ruth, we're glad that you've taken time out of your busy household duties to spend a few minutes with us this evening on the program.
Thank you, Cliff.
You know, many folks have asked why you don't take more time to be with your husband.
Do you have a good reason?
I have four good reasons.
Four of them, what are they?
Virginia, Anne, Ruth, and Franklin.
Virginia, Anne... WILLS: While he was traveling around and his career was really starting to take off, Ruth was at home having children.
(family singing) BUTLER: What Graham is exhibiting is what I would say is pristine American white masculinity.
That masculinity of, "I'm handsome, "I have a beautiful wife, I have beautiful children, my life is in control."
(singing) ♪ ♪ WILLS: There's a glamour boost that the two of them deliver to American Protestantism that, you know, "Maybe I can't be quite as beautiful, but I can try, I can aspire to that."
♪ ♪ WALTON: Every time that he was photographed, he was saying to all of his followers, "This is who we are, and this is how Christians should live."
BUTLER: For fundamentalists, Billy Graham took them from the fringes of society and put them right into the center of American Protestantism.
♪ ♪ Billy Graham becomes a household name, and he ends up making American evangelicalism a household name, as well.
(radio fanfare) JOHN CANNON: For the first time in history, a revival meeting is held on the steps of the Capitol Building in Washington.
40,000 braved drizzling weather to hear evangelist Billy Graham pronounce his cures for today's evils.
BALBIER: When Billy Graham thought about the United States, he thought about it as a Christian nation fallen from grace, so a Christian nation that had to be redirected.
KRUSE: The Oval Office meeting with Truman went very poorly.
He quickly sets his sights on a return visit about 18 months later.
There's a clear difference in these two Washington events.
GRAHAM: I ask the United States Senate and Congress to request the president, once again in our hour of crisis, when we stand on the abyss of national destruction and catastrophe, to call our people to prayer.
KRUSE: The rally on the steps of the U.S. Capitol put Graham's strength on display.
And it shows political leaders how powerful and how popular he can be.
We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven.
We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity.
We've grown in number, wealth, and power as no other nation has grown.
But we have forgotten God.
♪ ♪ KRUSE: He firmly believes the country needs a religious revival, and he's now set himself up to do whatever he can to do that, to lobby political leaders, to influence them, to call on their citizens and his followers to make demands upon them.
He wants Harry Truman to come to the Washington crusade.
Congress is much more receptive.
I have been amazed and gratified and thrilled to find that among many of our great leaders in the Congress and throughout the government are devout Christians.
Two of these distinguished gentlemen are with us tonight.
Congressman, I've been trying to get Christian men to run for political office around the country.
What do you think about that?
I firmly believe that you expressed it well when you said God is working here in the national capital.
♪ ♪ GIBBS: This was the first time Graham really soaked in the political dynamics of Washington, whether it was with the Senate or the House, or Supreme Court justices.
People were really listening to him.
And these people who were themselves, you know, among the most powerful people in the country, were affirming and validating his power.
It kind of went to his head.
GRAHAM: I was talking to a presidential candidate just the other day, you know, we have quite a few these days, and I was telling him, if I wanted to win the election, and call the people back to God and back to Christ and back to the Bible, I said, "I believe I'd be elected."
GIBBS: He says, you know, "Evangelicals are, you know, "will vote one way, and I could swing 16 million evangelicals with a single word."
Which, whether or not there is truth to that, it was a remarkable thing to say.
KRUSE: Graham makes it clear that he and his followers are going to have some influence.
That the nation needs to turn to God, and that that needs to be a campaign issue, and he wants the country to rally around a candidate who can deliver that.
FILM NARRATOR: Out of the heartland of America, out of this small-frame house in Abilene, Kansas, came a man, Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Through the crucial hour of historic D-Day, he brought us to the triumph and peace of V.E.-Day.
(cheers and applause) MARTIN: Billy Graham had taken a real appreciation for Dwight Eisenhower, as of course had most Americans.
WACKER: A Texas oilman named Sid Richardson wanted Eisenhower to become president, and he so enlisted Billy Graham.
So here he is, this very young man, he's knocking on the door of the five-star general.
He told Eisenhower that the fate of the Western world hinged upon Eisenhower's decision.
Eisenhower's astonished by this young guy.
But as it happens, Eisenhower liked it.
SINGERS: ♪ You like Ike, I like Ike ♪ ♪ Everybody likes Ike for president ♪ ♪ Hang out the banner, beat the drum ♪ ♪ We'll take Ike to Washington ♪ KRUSE: Billy Graham serves as Eisenhower's spiritual adviser on the campaign.
And he offers Eisenhower some scriptural references he can drop into speeches, some themes he might want to hit on the campaign trail.
And I want to say something to you tonight, to you church members, you people who profess Christianity.
I believe it's your duty more than any other group to go to the polls and vote.
You owe your country.
You owe unborn generations your vote at this election.
You say, "Well, Billy, who shall we vote for?"
Now, I'm not entering partisan politics.
Of course, I have my own opinion, and I'm going to register my opinion next Tuesday at the poll, but nobody'll know but myself and God.
I think it's fair to say he feigned an impartiality, but his preferences were clear.
♪ ♪ REPORTER: America speaks at the polling booths from coast to coast, as 55 million from all walks of life cast their votes for the 33rd man to become president of the United States.
♪ ♪ KRUSE: Eisenhower wins a resounding victory in 1952.
He calls Graham to his hotel in New York City after the election and has a meeting with him.
And he says, "I think one of the reasons I was elected was that we need spiritual renewal in this country."
...preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution... KRUSE: Eisenhower firmly believed that religion needed to be worn on one's sleeve.
So help me, God.
KRUSE: That faith had to be manifested in public in order to inspire people in private.
(cheers and applause) EISENHOWER: My friends, would you permit me the privilege of uttering a little private prayer of my own?
GIBBS: Eisenhower believed that national success depends on shared sacrifice and that the Cold War, at some level, was a spiritual battle, and that, in order to summon people into alliance, depended on having a larger spiritual purpose that was explicit.
♪ ♪ GRAHAM: Communism is a religion.
At this moment, it appears that communism has all the earmarks of Antichrist.
It is mastermind by Satan himself.
Who is greater: Marx or Christ?
BUTLER: What Billy Graham could provide to Eisenhower is a way to deploy certain kinds of ideas about nationalism, and Christianity, and pushing back against the communist threat.
GRAHAM: The communist philosophy has infiltrated into every country of the world, including America.
BUTLER: Billy Graham thinks that America is a special nation.
He believes that it is a nation that is supposed to lead the rest of the world in terms of democracy, in terms of Christianity.
I want to tell you it's more patriotic-- more patriotic-- to be a Christian, to live for God, than it is to carry a gun in time of war.
America is the greatest force that God has ever allowed to exist on his footstool.
I believe that America is the great spiritual arsenal of the world.
♪ ♪ FITZGERALD: Eisenhower was pleased by thinking of Graham as the sort of religious leader of the country.
KRUSE: Together, they help effect a new set of ceremonies and symbols that conflate piety and patriotism to a degree never seen before.
DOCHUK: It's during Eisenhower's presidency, for instance, that the prayer breakfast became an annual event, an event at which clerics and politicians of all political stripes come together to pray for the nation.
CHILDREN: I pledge allegiance to the flag... KRUSE: We get the addition of "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance for the first time, when it previously had been secular, had no mention of God.
CHILDREN: ...one nation, indivisible... KRUSE: We get the adoption of "In God We Trust" as the nation's first official motto in 1956.
It's added to paper currency for the first time in 1957.
ANNOUNCER: President Eisenhower and Postmaster Summerfield take part in the introduction of the first stamp with a religious message.
The new stamp will carry to the world America's message of liberty and faith.
♪ ♪ GRAHAM: Our forefathers came to this country seeking freedom, and they brought in their hands a Bible, and they said, "On this book, we shall build a nation."
KRUSE: Many Americans think of America as a Christian nation, but in the Constitution, the only references to Christianity are ones that keep it removed from the state, that there should be no religious test for office, that there should be no established state religion, that there should be no government control over what private citizens can believe.
NEWS ANCHOR: The president and Mrs. Eisenhower hear evangelist Billy Graham preach at the National Presbyterian Church in Washington.
KRUSE: Eisenhower and Graham completely turn this around and to make it clear that America is, if not a Christian nation, perhaps a Judeo-Christian nation, one that has a religious faith at its core.
This new religious nationalism is a remarkable change, a stark shift from the norms of American life before.
GIBBS: Eisenhower is the first genuine relationship Graham has with someone with that much power.
It's the start of a learning curve that then develops with each successive president.
♪ ♪ REPORTER: American Billy Graham faces a battery of press cameras as, with his young wife, Ruth, he comes to Britain on board the luxury liner SS United States.
BALBIER: Billy Graham looks at London as a very secular place.
He doesn't know if revivalism will work in the U.K. the way it does in the U.S.
But there is the ambition to change the world, to tackle this obstacle.
GRAHAM: Church attendance in the United States is about three times that which it is in Britain, and now these British clergymen have invited us to come and use the method that, to some extent at least, they feel has been successful in the United States.
You mentioned Harringay Arena.
Now, that seats about 11-and-a- half thousand people... That's right.
REPORTER: And you've booked it for 12 weeks, does that seem optimistic to you?
I think that, from all indications, Harringay Arena is going to be too small.
BALBIER: The British press was surprised that an American revival preacher would be bold enough to plan a campaign which would run for 12 weeks in London.
There were all these stereotypes about American revival preachers, them just being too loud, and just a little bit too much fire and brimstone for the more reserved British.
(passing traffic) (car horn) JOHN GUEST: I went with one of the other young men who was training to be an engineer, as I was.
So here we're walking up to this huge structure with the crowds pouring in.
And then when we got inside, it was so crowded already, we had to sit toward the back on the ground floor level.
So that put you quite a long way away from the podium.
We are diseased.
The Bible teaches that we have a spiritual disease.
Every person in this audience tonight is infected with this disease.
The whole world, you, you here tonight, are searching for peace.
I believe that we...
GUEST: He immediately had my attention.
...of moral revolution.
GUEST: I ran with a pretty hardheaded group of young lads.
Done some shoplifting, had one idea about what a girl was for.
I was ashamed of myself, if you really wanted to know.
GRAHAM: You thought that perhaps prosperity would bring it.
You think perhaps a sex experience will bring it.
You think that getting drunk may bring it.
You try a thousand ways.
Because sin has gradually dulled your conscience until now, sin no longer bothers you.
Sin has become your master.
GUEST: So when Billy Graham spoke about Jesus dying for our sins, if you ask Christ to come into your life, you could be forgiven, begin again.
Jesus went to the cross for you.
He hung openly in front of a crowd for you.
Certainly you can come a few feet for Him.
You come, we're going to wait on you.
Every head bow while we wait.
Just get up right now, quickly, hundreds of you, from all over the place, come.
Men, women, young people, their whole families need to come.
GUEST: To myself I'm thinking, "That's what I'm looking for!
That's what I want!"
To put it plainly, it was the first time in my whole human experience that I felt clean on the inside.
♪ ♪ (indistinct chatter) ♪ ♪ MARTIN: This large arena was entirely packed for weeks and weeks and weeks.
So many people wanted to come that couldn't get into it, they established what they called landline relays, where his voice was carried over telephone lines to theaters and churches all over.
♪ ♪ Both the American ambassador and the British home secretary said that Billy Graham had done more for Anglo-American relationships than any other person had done since the end of World War II.
GRAHAM: Our destinies as two nations are linked together, and I sincerely believe that this is a demonstration on the moral and spiritual level that our two nations are one.
(indistinct chatter) MARTIN: As the crusade came to a close, Billy Graham realized that his life had changed.
(train bell) He was not only now the most famous preacher in the United States, he was now the most famous in London.
And if you're famous in London, you're famous all over the world.
♪ ♪ There's a point sometime in the 1950s when it's arguable that Billy Graham becomes the most famous person in the world.
(chatter) And the kind of global celebrity that he had shapes everything that followed.
♪ ♪ BALMER: New York is the big place.
Billy Graham specifically likened New York to Sodom and Gomorrah from the Hebrew Bible.
MAN: One dollar here, one dollar!
BALMER: This in many ways was the last frontier for him.
♪ ♪ MILLER: New York City symbolized many things that fundamentalism was not, from its religious diversity, to its racial diversity, to its comparative secularism.
LEIGHTON FORD: In the late summer of 1956, Billy said, "Next year, we're going to Madison Square Garden."
JEAN FORD: Billy asked us to go to New York.
We were 23, 24 years old.
Billy said, "I want you to go and work with the churches "up there and tell them what this is about, and recruit them and encourage them to be part of it."
(traffic, car horns) JEAN FORD: We had a pretty big office down near Times Square.
(phone rings) And I ran the switchboard some of the time.
Just a moment, please.
Yes, it is, thank you, I'll connect you.
JEAN FORD: I guess there were about a dozen people or more that worked there.
I went to Baptists and Lutherans and Pentecostals and Seventh-Day Adventists, and Hispanic churches.
Took the buses, took the subway, drove around.
I was supposed to go to the churches and say, "This is your crusade, not Billy Graham's.
This is God's work, and we're here to serve."
FITZGERALD: He refused to be sponsored by the fundamentalists there.
He insisted on being sponsored by the mainline denominations.
He reached out to the Catholic churches, he even reached out to the Jewish community in New York, and he invited all these people of faith to come together.
TISBY: Let's get everybody together because everybody needs Jesus, and some of these divisions that we've created are preventing the Gospel of Jesus from going out to the largest possible audience.
LEIGHTON FORD: It was very controversial, I'd say both theologically on the left and on the right.
WALTON: Reinhold Niebuhr, the great ethicist and theologian, was one of Billy Graham's most consistent and caustic critics.
Niebuhr believed that the message that Graham was giving was that society was nothing more than a collection of individuals.
And Niebuhr believed that the techniques of revivalism, the very message itself, oversimplified the dynamics of a modern society.
I criticize the revival wherever it... it gives petty and trivial answers to very great and ultimate questions about the meaning of our life.
♪ ♪ LEIGHTON FORD: I can remember standing in Madison Square Garden.
I stood there looking at that cavernous stadium, the day before it all started, and looking up at those empty seats and saying, "What is this going to be like?"
The contract to start with for three or four weeks, it could be extended, so it was extended a week and another week and another week.
Went on 16-and-a-half weeks.
♪ ♪ WACKER: Coming from a small town in Missouri, I had never seen that many people in one place.
Madison Square Garden seated 18,000.
And I remember the lines.
The lines of people outside trying to get in.
It was like a sporting event.
ANNOUNCER: Tonight, we're delighted to have from Montgomery, Alabama, Dr. Martin Luther King, the minister of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.
TISBY: Billy Graham invites this young up-and-coming minister, Martin Luther King, Jr., to be part of the program as a way of reaching across racial and ethnic lines.
KING: Heavenly Father, we thank Thee this evening for the marvelous things that have been done in this city through the dynamic preaching of this great evangelist.
We ask Thee, O God, to continue blessing him.
Give him continued power and authority.
TISBY: Billy Graham knows, to his credit, that this tall, white, blue-eyed preacher is not going to bring in Black people or Latinos and Latinas.
He needs other folks to help bridge that gap.
WALTON: He's also making a statement about civil rights in the Southern region.
He's trying to expand his audience to include people of color, saying that you are actually welcome as part of this campaign.
We are praying that God is going to give a new soul and new spirit to this great city that leads the world in so many ways, and we're praying that in the next few weeks, it will at least have started on its way to world leadership in moral and spiritual values.
♪ ♪ MILLER: The New York crusade was a critical turning point.
It was really the final straw for a generation of fundamentalists, who then, you know, pretty much publicly divorced themselves from Billy Graham.
MARTIN: Bob Jones declared that Billy had made a serious mistake preaching with the support of a whole range of unsound churches.
BALBIER: Billy Graham himself is aware he is close to politics, he is close to celebrity culture, he is close to so many things that Protestant fundamentalists despise.
And Bob Jones is pushing Billy Graham to make a decision.
♪ ♪ MARTIN: However much he wanted the support of fundamentalists, for both strategic and emotional reasons, he realized he could do without them.
At that moment, he turned in his card to the card-carrying fundamentalists and he said, "I'm not one of you anymore."
(distant chatter) KRUSE: One of the major developments of the 1950s is the emergence of the modern Civil Rights Movement.
And it becomes the real test of what American democracy is all about.
(kids chatting) DOCHUK: Billy Graham was born into a South that was heavily segregated.
Graham's evangelical circles were overtly white.
Evangelicalism was defined by its whiteness.
MAYLON WATKINS: God is the greatest of all segregationists.
He made the white man white, and he made the Black man Black, and I for one will honor God's creative act.
DOCHUK: By the early '50s, Billy Graham has become more progressive in his racial views, so that by 1953, he begins desegregating his revivals.
BUTLER: Billy Graham wants everybody to know that they are the same in the eyes of God.
But he wants people to obey the laws of the land.
And that's where things get sticky, because it's one thing to say you believe that all men and women are created in God's image and in the sight of God, but at the same time, tell them they can't use the water fountain and they can't go to the same bathroom as a white person.
GRAHAM: You cannot legislate morals.
You cannot make people love each other.
That can only come from within.
And whether you are of the white race or the Negro race in the United States, you have an obligation as a Christian to love your fellow man no matter who he may be.
WALTON: After the New York campaign, Martin Luther King, Jr., sees an opportunity with Billy Graham, to press him on civil rights.
TISBY: Billy Graham is doing a crusade in San Antonio, Texas, and as is his common practice, he's going to partner with prominent political officials to be part of it, and in this case, he has the governor of Texas, Price Daniel, on the program to introduce him.
The problem is, Price Daniel is a noted segregationist.
BUTLER: Martin Luther King hears about this.
And so he writes to Graham and asks Graham, would he please not appear on stage with Governor Price Daniel?
Martin Luther King believes that if Billy Graham would rescind that appearance, that it would mean that Billy Graham was supportive of the Civil Rights Movement and would not support an open segregationist.
Billy Graham refuses.
♪ ♪ MILLER: One of Graham's associates, Grady Wilson, wrote a letter saying, you know, essentially, "Billy loves Price Daniel "as a Christian brother.
"And frankly, Dr. King, you should have a similar perspective, as well."
SINGERS: ♪ The eyes of Texas are upon you ♪ ♪ Till Gabriel blows his horn ♪ MARTIN: The eight years of the Eisenhower administration were crucially important for Billy Graham.
It opened the world up to him in a way that would not have been done otherwise, and he enjoyed that.
(indistinct chatter) BALMER: Billy Graham sees the 1960 election as his opportunity to become intimately engaged in political machinations which would lead to the election of his friend Richard Nixon over the Roman Catholic John F. Kennedy.
WACKER: Billy had met Nixon all the way back to 1952 in the U.S. Senate dining room, and they immediately hit it off.
They simply liked each other.
Their views largely synchronized, political views.
They were both moderately conservative Republicans.
GIBBS: Nixon's more of a peer and they sort of grew up together, in a sense, that Nixon's arrival as a famous public person, as a senator and as a vice president, corresponds with Graham's.
(traffic, city sounds) GIBBS: There's this extraordinary moment during the New York crusade where Nixon, now as vice president, comes to the crusade, and it's one of the gatherings at Yankee Stadium.
(chatter) And Graham and Nixon walk out onto the field together.
And the crowd just roars.
(roaring cheers, applause) And I think not only was it the visceral encounter with the power that Graham had over people, but it was an encounter with something that Nixon himself had never experienced in his public life.
Billy Graham knew what it was to be loved, knew what it was to experience public adulation, enormous respect.
And Nixon's respect for it, maybe his envy of it, his understanding of that that was the way Graham was seen, I think had a real impact on Nixon.
WACKER: So there is all this background with Nixon, but now Nixon becomes the alternative to this Catholic candidate.
(church bells) BALMER: For John Kennedy to be the Democratic nominee and a Roman Catholic was for many American Protestants almost a kind of existential threat.
FITZGERALD: Protestants thought of Catholics as being ruled by the pope, having no sense of separation of church and state.
All those Catholic monarchies in Europe convinced them of that.
GRAHAM: I think there are definite problems for the American people in a Roman Catholic running for president.
However, I do not believe this should be a time for religious bigotry.
WACKER: Graham says one thing publicly, and he does something else privately.
This is one of Graham's ongoing traits when it came to politics.
He convened a meeting of prominent American evangelicals at a chateau in Montreux, Switzerland.
Very influential evangelicals: L. Nelson Bell, who was Billy Graham's father-in-law, and then Norman Vincent Peale.
MILLER Norman Vincent Peale was a celebrity minister.
He was famous for a book called "The Power of Positive Thinking."
WACKER: It's not clear exactly what was said, but at some point in this meeting, they decided that they would work to derail Kennedy.
He wrote to Nixon and told him everything he was doing.
♪ ♪ JOHN HUFFMAN: There was a meeting at the Mayflower Hotel, one of the hotels in Washington, and they came out with a statement questioning whether a Catholic should be president.
WACKER: When Norman Vincent Peale spoke to the press, it was widely taken as an overt manifesto of anti-Catholicism.
FITZGERALD: Peale was wildly criticized.
WACKER: Billy wasn't there, he was in Europe.
He clearly was instrumental in setting it up.
But he doesn't say anything publicly after the meeting goes awry.
HUFFMAN: At that point, Peale was left out hanging to dry.
WACKER: Peale was mortified.
♪ ♪ KENNETH WOODWARD: Jack Kennedy picks up "The Washington Post," sees the story.
He has an invitation to speak to the Houston Ministerial Association.
When he read the story, he says, "I got to go."
KENNEDY: I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant, nor Jewish, where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials.
But if this election is decided on the basis that 40 million Americans lost their chance of being president on the day they were baptized, then it is the whole nation that will be the loser.
He gave that speech on religious freedom, and without that, he would never have won.
(chatter) HUFFMAN: And I was only 20 years old at that time, but very politically active, and I watched it carefully.
Billy, I know, was for Nixon, but he right away goes and plays golf with Kennedy.
(chatter) GRAHAM: I have great sympathy for the need in this country for racial understanding, racial justice, but I don't believe it's going to be settled in the street.
I think it's going to be settled in the hearts of people.
KRUSE: Billy Graham sees racial equality as an important issue.
At the same time, he looks upon the activism of civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., as troubling.
GIBBS: He believed in order.
Graham's really is a Gospel of obedience.
The whole fundamental principle of civil disobedience, I think, is a hard one for him to really understand.
(glassware, silverware clinking) TISBY: Martin Luther King and others are really trying to provoke a response from segregationists in order to bring attention to these injustices.
And so to that end, they go to the hotspots.
And in 1963, Birmingham, Alabama, was one of the hottest of the hotspots.
(siren) WALTON: The Southern Christian Leadership Conference under the leadership of Dr. King planned a mass campaign to hold city leaders accountable for desegregating the city.
Graham urged King and other civil rights activists to, quote, "put the brakes on it a little bit" in Birmingham, to kind of slow down, wait for things to get better.
I was there for CBS News.
Dr. King was arrested.
He was put in jail.
While in jail, he wrote the now-famous "Letter From Birmingham Jail."
KING: My dear fellow clergymen, I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens' Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice, who constantly says, "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action."
WALTON: Even though he's speaking to those clergy members from the city of Birmingham, he's articulating a larger critique of the white evangelical movement, namely, its moderates, of which Billy Graham is at the forefront.
KING: I have been disappointed with the church.
In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities.
♪ ♪ RATHER: I asked myself, "Where is Billy Graham?"
He could make a big difference.
GRAHAM: I am not a right winger, I'm not a left winger.
And I have tried to stay away from being extremist on either side.
And sometimes this is difficult, because I feel the pressure from both right and left constantly.
When it really came to expressing solidarity with Black people and their allies, it just didn't fit with the larger project of white evangelicalism.
GRAHAM: I'm afraid that people are getting a distorted idea about American democracy, when they see, for example, rubber hoses and police dogs and all these things being used.
Because I think these are isolated incidents, do not really reflect the mood of the entire country.
This moment captures the ways that Billy Graham often obscured his hunger, thirst, and quest for popularity and mass acclaim.
This was a moment where he would have just had to lose a critical mass of his followers if he had taken a definitive stand on the side of civil rights protesters.
King is advocating for rights for African Americans and for all people.
Graham advocated for power.
Graham advocates for power for himself.
♪ ♪ RATHER: The 1960s were a tumultuous time, climaxing in 1968.
The tremendous divisions over the war in Vietnam.
Literal race riots in the streets.
The chaos surrounding the presidential nominating conventions.
So there was this sense of fatigue.
"Gosh, we just can't keep going this way as a country.
"We'd had Democratic control of the White House "and both houses of Congress for eight years.
Now we're going to try something new."
ANNOUNCER: Tonight, from Atlanta, "The Nixon Answer."
Hi, how are you?
Thank you, thank you very much, thank you!
We have some other visitors to Atlanta today.
An old friend, one who is visiting his crusade office today, Billy Graham and Mrs. Graham, right next to him.
(cheers and applause) BALMER: When Richard Nixon is finally elected in 1968, Graham was euphoric.
MILLER: By that point, Nixon had a close relationship with Graham for almost a generation.
And so if Graham's desire going back with Truman was to have that voice in the White House, why, then he really had it.
GIBBS: Nixon made it a point that if he didn't talk to Graham regularly, that one of his closest aides would.
And when Graham called, you know, his calls went through.
ASSISTANT: Reverend Billy Graham on the line, sir.
GRAHAM: Mr. President?
NIXON: Who's this, Billy?
GRAHAM: This is Billy Graham.
NIXON: How are you?
GRAHAM: I wanted to tell you that's by far the best... WACKER: Graham goes to Vietnam, partly as a goodwill ambassador, in a semi-official way.
Graham's position on the Vietnam War evolved.
At the beginning, he was a hawk.
In the late '60s, early '70s, he's not as hawkish as he had been.
REPORTER: You're a close friend of President Nixon.
What is your feeling he'll do about the war in the first year or two of his office?
Well, he, I saw him last Monday night, and the last thing he said to me as I went out the elevator, he said, "Tell those men over there "that we're pulling for them and that we're going to try to bring peace as quick as we can."
WACKER: Soon after Nixon's inauguration, Graham sends a letter to the president.
The main thrust of it is that the United States military needs to withdraw and let the Vietnamese take over the prosecution of the war.
REPORTER: Did President Nixon offer you a position in his administration?
(chuckles): I couldn't answer that.
REPORTER: You, uh...
I will-- my position in his administration will be that of just a friend.
WACKER: Without question, Graham not only had a close working relationship with Nixon, they did talk about policy, and this contradicts Graham's frequent statement that they did not talk about policy, that the relationship was purely pastoral.
GRAHAM: I've got an editorial in "The New York Times" on Friday, which I wrote this morning... NIXON: Good for you, good.
GRAHAM: And I'm putting all the blame for this whole thing on Kennedy.
NIXON: That's right, he started the damn thing!
GRAHAM: Yeah, and I got all that in there, and they've taken it.
They're going to print it Friday morning.
Well, believe me, Billy, it means an awful lot.
And you keep the faith, huh?
GRAHAM: You betcha.
KRUSE: In May of 1970, Nixon reveals to the public that America has actually widened the war in Vietnam.
He promised to draw it down.
Instead, he'd actually expanded it, and he expanded it by invading Cambodia.
REPORTER: The town of Kent and the Kent State campus erupted in violent demonstrations against America's involvement in Cambodia and Vietnam, demonstrations that lasted four days and ended when four students died in a volley of National Guard gunfire.
(bell ringing, people shouting) (gunshots) (gunfire) (siren) REPORTER: What's your reaction to the killings at Kent State?
I felt like somebody had kicked me in the stomach.
I just hoped and prayed this would not happen in America.
Because it could be the beginning of more violence.
MARTIN: Just a few weeks after the Kent State killings, Billy Graham held a crusade in Knoxville, Tennessee.
KRUSE: The entire country is in turmoil and Nixon is looking for a way to counter-balance these protests.
And Billy Graham offers the way out by inviting him to come down to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
(cheers and applause) Nixon had strong support in the region, especially in East Tennessee, where Knoxville is located.
Graham steps forward to offer a very public vindication of the president at the moment he's being vilified by everyone else.
All Americans may not agree with the decision a president makes.
But he is our president.
(cheers and applause) BALMER: Graham's primary loyalty was to Nixon.
And that trumped Graham's judgment about the morality of the expansion of the war in Southeast Asia.
Graham was willing to set that aside and say, "Nixon's the guy, Nixon's my person.
"And I'm going to rescue him at this moment of real political danger."
CROWD (chanting): One, two, three, four, we don't want no stinkin' war.
(boos and yelling) NIXON: Billy Graham, when he invited me to come here, he told me that there would be youth from the university, from other parts of the state, representing different points of view.
(laughter) I'm just glad that there seems to be a rather solid majority on one side rather than the other side tonight.
(cheering erupts) GIBBS: There was a celebration within the White House of these visuals of Richard Nixon side by side with Billy Graham in the face of these lawless heathen protesters.
♪ ♪ You couldn't have possibly packaged it more neatly for their purposes.
♪ ♪ PROGRAM NARRATOR: Dr. Billy Graham.
As a Southerner, and I'm very proud to be a Southerner, public schools have been a part of the way of life in the South for many years.
A lot of Southerners may be frustrated and angry right now, and many don't agree with all the changes that are taking place in the schools, especially this busing for racial balance.
BALMER: The gist of these ads was to try to persuade white Southerners to abandon the Democratic Party for Nixon's Republican Party.
And Graham is willing to go on record in a very, very graphic way, to make that happen.
I really believe that the South will set an example of respect for law that will be a model for others to follow.
BALMER: The Nixon White House was really using Graham for their political ends.
Graham certainly played along with that.
He was happy to help Nixon, in any way he could.
♪ ♪ REPORTER: President Nixon went to Charlotte, North Carolina, today for a special local tribute to his old friend the Reverend Billy Graham.
KRUSE: At Billy Graham Day in 1971, the city of Charlotte shut down for the event.
(cheers and applause) GIBBS: Schools were closed, businesses were closed, and the entire city just turned out to welcome home and celebrate their favorite son.
MILLER: Billy Graham Day was essentially a contrived event to celebrate Graham, and to give Nixon exposure in the region, as well.
(applause) Graham and Nixon were basically making a campaign appearance together, almost as if they were president and vice president.
♪ ♪ DOCHUK: This is an apex in his career, a moment when he and Richard Nixon are tightly bound together in the political and cultural project of making American values.
♪ ♪ GIBBS: Billy Graham Day was not about honoring God, it was about honoring Billy Graham, and so now he is the subject of all the adulation, and that had to be... a very different kind of experience for him.
♪ ♪ And arguably, a dangerous one.
♪ ♪ (applause) (applause continues) ♪ ♪ GRAHAM: I would like to say that, if we come right down to the wire... NIXON: Right.
GRAHAM: And it looks like, you know, that I could help in a public way, even if I had to come out and say, "I'm voting for Richard Nixon because..." I'm ready to put that on the line, even though it would hurt my ministry for years.
But I'm 53, I don't know how long I have anyway, so I don't care.
♪ ♪ REPORTER: What's beginning to turn into a nightmare for the Republicans all began on June 17, when, according to police, five men were caught with bugging equipment inside the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate.
WACKER: When the Watergate story begins to surface, Graham is incredulous.
He does not believe that Richard Nixon could have been involved in something this wrong.
Nixon had always presented himself to Graham as a devout fellow Christian.
Not an evangelical, exactly, but as a devout fellow Christian.
And Graham took that as an evidence of Nixon's character.
REPORTER: It was learned this week that another suspect received a $25,000 cashier's check, which had been intended for the president's campaign.
RATHER: The question is, if any or all of what is alleged to have been going on is true, how high up in the White House does it go, and is the president himself involved?
WACKER: Increasingly, Graham cannot deny that something illegal had taken place, but he didn't think that Nixon had orchestrated it.
He's saying, "Nixon could not be involved, he's too moral."
SENATOR: Are you aware of the installation of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the president?
I was aware of listening devices, yes, sir.
The tapes are crucial.
For example, they could show whether John Dean was telling the truth when he said that President Nixon indicated knowledge of the Watergate coverup in a number of conversations at the White House.
Watergate was not on the official agenda of the Southern Baptist convention, which ended in Dallas today, but as George Lewis reports, the subject was on the minds of many delegates.
There's a little bit of Watergate in all of us, just don't go around so self-righteous, talking about all those bad people.
(applause) I know some bad people in both parties.
MARTIN: In private, Billy Graham was working with Nixon's staff and telling them, "Try to do some things "to divert attention from this crisis.
"Maybe get people thinking about something else.
"Concentrate on meeting famous people, having your picture taken with them."
("Hail to the Chief" playing, applause) REPORTER: President Nixon has not yet responded to the sledgehammer decision of the Supreme Court today, which ruled that he must immediately turn over tapes of 64 presidential conversations.
In a unanimous decision written by Chief Justice Warren Burger, the court rejected eight to nothing Mr. Nixon's claim of absolute privilege on those tapes.
♪ ♪ WACKER: When the White House tapes are released in April of '74, and the text is reprinted, Graham at first refuses to read them.
He doesn't want to know the truth, all right?
But by early May, he knows he has no choice.
♪ ♪ The phone rings, my secretary says, "A man claiming to be Billy Graham's on the line."
I said, "Put him through," and it was Billy.
And he said, "John," he said, "I just now have read the transcripts.
I'm only halfway through and I just vomited."
And he said, "You know... and I know "that the president had to use some sleeping pills "to counter jet lag and things like that.
I just wonder if something's happened to him."
JOHN CHANCELLOR: The Reverend Billy Graham, who's been a friend of the president's for a long time, spoke out today on the moral tone of the president's edited White House transcripts.
Graham said reading the tapes was a profoundly disturbing and disappointing experience.
He said he could not but deplore the moral tone implied.
(inaudible) (crowd laughs) My impression at the time was that Billy Graham felt it was best to say as little as possible, keep his head down, and let the worst of it pass.
(applause) REPORTER: Why are you refusing to discuss it here for a moment or two?
It's a rather serious... Because this is... Because this is, uh, this is a golf tournament, and I came out here to enjoy a day of golf.
REPORTER: And your statement was a very serious thing towards the president of the United States, too, which is perhaps more important than a golf tournament.
Well, that is up for me to judge.
You don't think it is?
I am not making any comment.
REPORTER: Dr. Graham, what do you think the transcripts show about the moral tone in the White House?
I'm very sorry, but on another time, another occasion, I'd be happy to... Well, you've stood here to talk about it, but... for ten minutes to talk to us about it without talking to us about it.
(laughs) Doesn't save you much time... Well...
This is a golf game, and I don't think it's a proper place to discuss it.
RATHER: Billy Graham was worried.
He knew how close he had become with Richard Nixon in that phrase, "He was flying very close to the sun."
Jim, thank you very much.
Have a good golf day, anyway.
Yes, sir, thank you.
(indistinct chatter) (crickets chirping) WALTER CRONKITE: In the White House, in just a few moments now, President Nixon will be appearing before the people perhaps for the last time as president of the United States.
He had asked for this television time at 9:00 to make an announcement.
On the night Nixon finally is persuaded to resign, Billy Graham comes to Washington hoping to provide comfort in what was certainly Nixon's darkest hour.
MARTIN: He told me that he wanted to be with Nixon to pray with him, but he couldn't get to him.
He couldn't even get the operator to put him through.
I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.
♪ ♪ REPORTER: Here he is on the South Lawn already.
REPORTER: Mr. Nixon as he leaves the White House here to board the helicopter for the flight to California.
There's the president waving goodbye.
And you hear the applause.
(applause) MARTIN: Right after Nixon resigned, Billy Graham went back to his home in the mountains near Asheville, just to consider and absorb what had happened, what he'd been through.
BUTLER: Billy Graham's friendship with Richard Nixon had tainted the very work of his life.
This is the first time that he's had a huge moral misstep.
HUFFMAN: He was desolate.
He was just beside himself with anguish.
♪ ♪ GIBBS: His faith in this man turned out to be misplaced, and his faith in Nixon's goodness, and in his own judgment of Nixon's goodness.
♪ ♪ That's a crushing experience.
WACKER: You hitch your Gospel wagon to a star.
When that star falls, so does the wagon.
(indistinct chatter) BALMER: After Watergate, Billy Graham begins to focus more on international efforts.
(cheers and applause) Just a recognition that, you know, he needed to repair his own reputation after it had been, without any question, sullied.
GRAHAM: God loves you so much that He decided to save you.
INTERPRETER: (translates in French) He was getting ready to die.
(translates in Korean) He was getting ready to leave.
(translates in Korean) And the last word He said to the people was, "Love each other."
INTERPRETER: (translates in Korean) GRAHAM: How many of you here today are dissatisfied?
INTERPRETER: (translates in Polish) You're searching for something, and you don't know what it is.
(translates in Polish) WOODWARD: He started going to Europe more often, especially Eastern Europe.
And not only do the Protestant churches support him, but the Catholic churches do.
Catholic Poland welcomes him.
He never expected that.
How can I get that righteousness?
(translates in Polish) How can I get this holiness?
(translates in Polish) Through the cross.
(translates in Polish) (cheers and applause) BALBIER: The picture of world Christianity is changing, and Billy Graham is now going where Christianity is growing.
♪ ♪ GIBBS: It broadens him.
He becomes less adamant in many ways, not about the truth of the Gospel, but because he gets exposed to so many different ways of life and so many different kinds of people.
(distant siren) ♪ ♪ WOODWARD: "McCall's" magazine asked me to interview him.
We met in a mid-Manhattan hotel, a nice one, but the room was not big, and he's tall.
And he's trying to find a place to put his legs.
♪ ♪ He was tired, he'd been gone for months and months.
He missed his wife.
That was part of the mood.
And so we're talking, and he said, "You know," he said, "I used to think that all those Chinese babies "who never had the Gospel preached to them were all going to Hell."
He said, "I don't believe that anymore."
♪ ♪ He said, "My job is to do the preaching, and God's job is to do the savings."
That's just not what you say if you're an evangelist.
"You need this, and you need it today "because tomorrow you may die and you're going to be burning in Hell."
♪ ♪ Billy finally said he would let God be God, and let Him be the judge.
(chuckles) It's an extraordinary change.
Nobody knows for sure how many conservative Christians there are in the United States.
One estimate is from 30 to 65 million.
REPORTER: These people are born-again Christians.
Millions of them are political conservatives who traditionally have not voted, but this year they're being mobilized for Ronald Reagan.
JERRY FALWELL: We've got to raise up an army of men and women in America who'll call this nation back to moral sanity and sensibility.
I call that the Moral Majority.
KRUSE: Jerry Falwell came in to pick up the reins of what Graham had created and took it to the next level.
We have a threefold primary responsibility.
Number one, get people saved, number two, get them baptized, number three, get them registered to vote.
RATHER: This year, millions of evangelical Christians appear to be coming together to form a new and powerful force, one that could change the face of American politics.
JAMES ROBINSON: You stay home, you don't get informed, you don't get involved, you don't get active, you don't vote, you don't care-- you know who runs the country?
The godless, wicked forces that are gonna sell you down the river.
Good Christians make good citizens, and it's a sin not to vote.
We as Christians are simply not going to sit back any longer and watch our families being destroyed.
Maybe God's calling you to be a political leader for Christ.
I would say that just about every church in America, evangelical fundamentalist churches, follow the cue of their pastor.
REPORTER: That's an extraordinary amount of power.
♪ ♪ GRAHAM: Jerry Falwell has a right to do what he's doing.
The only thing I'm saying is, I'm not going to join that and I'm not going to get involved in politics.
TOM BROKAW: But they're, but they're giving us a real litmus test about who is acceptable to the Moral Majority, and then if they don't meet this various check off on this list, candidates or other people in public life, then the Moral Majority brings its considerable resources to bear against that candidate.
Yes, and I'm not going to be a part of that.
GIBBS: I don't think that the rise of the religious right could have happened in the way that it did, had he not opened those doors, but the people who came flooding through those doors did so as he was going the other way.
(indistinct chatter) BALMER: Graham comes out early in the 1980s against nuclear proliferation and in favor of nuclear disarmament.
Our time ought to be spent talking about how we're gonna eliminate these weapons entirely.
Because we can destroy the whole world in less than an hour.
Let's say the Soviet Union were attacked, or the United States were attacked, the head of the Soviet Union, the head of the United States would have only about 15 minutes to react.
WACKER: In 1982, he went to Moscow.
Graham's trip took place in the face of ardent opposition on the home front.
President Ronald Reagan was dubious.
The vice president, George Bush, actively opposed it.
WILLS: The stakes were so high, not just for Billy and his reputation and his future work, but for the safety of the planet.
GRAHAM: There's no doubt that the world is facing the most critical moment since the beginning of human history.
We live in a time which is without parallel, because never before has humanity held in its hands such awesome weapons of mass destruction.
But it is now time for us to urge the world to turn to a spiritual solution to this great problem.
GIBBS: If you go back to the boy wonder preacher of 1949, where there was just no question about America as being the most righteous nation on Earth, he just became more aware of difference and of nuance and of complexity.
♪ ♪ He became less American and more global.
Just when we think we've heard it all, more arises from the dark side of the only president to resign in disgrace.
Today's tapes include discomforting remarks, as well, by the Reverend Billy Graham.
REPORTER: The 500 hours of tapes released today, showing what one historian calls Nixon's own dark view of how the world works, where the enemy is not just the communists, it's also the media.
NIXON: "Newsweek" is totally, it's all run by Jews and dominated by them in their editorial pages.
"The New York Times," "The Washington Post," totally Jewish, too... REPORTER: Listening in agreement is the Reverend Billy Graham.
GRAHAM: This stranglehold has got to be broken or this country is going to go down the drain.
NIXON: Do you believe that?
GRAHAM: Yes, sir.
NIXON: I can't ever say it, but I believe it.
MILLER: Even as he emerged as this kind of iconic figure in the '80s, '90s, and into the 21st century, the Nixon-Graham conversations more than anything were the kind of albatross that Graham had to deal with.
WACKER: The first thing he did was apologize.
He traveled to Cincinnati and to a group of rabbis.
And, as the story goes, when he entered the room, he said, "I'm the one who should be kneeling and begging your forgiveness."
♪ ♪ KRUSE: As we reckon with Billy Graham's life, I think we have to pay attention not just to the quarter-century in which he was very politically active, but the slightly longer period that came after it in which he spent his time atoning for those actions.
(cheers and applause) He truly comes to be thought of as "America's Pastor."
He can speak to not just presidents of both parties, but Americans from all walks of life.
And I think his retreat from partisan politics is what enabled him to do that.
♪ ♪ You've come to this crusade expecting to live many more years, but you don't know.
This may be the last day of your life.
We never know.
WALTON: Billy Graham put a face on everyday people who had been much ostracized and maligned, and he made them part of the establishment, he made them part of the mainstream.
BALBIER: What is so interesting in Billy Graham's ministry is that someone who wanted to be so inclusive paved the ground for one of the most exclusive religious movements in the United States, the religious right.
♪ ♪ GRAHAM: This may be the last opportunity you'll ever have.
This is the moment.
I'm going to ask you to get up out of your seat and come in front of this platform, and say tonight, "I want Jesus in my heart."
(archival): You must say to him, "I will receive him."
And I'm going to ask you to do that this afternoon.
GIBBS: That last crusade was on a perfect continuous thread to Los Angeles, where, at its core, it is about delivering a message to a world in need.
...and turning to Jesus Christ as savior.
Shall we pray?
♪ ♪ LEIGHTON FORD: Before he died, Jeannie and I were in his little room up there, and I said, "Billy, when the time comes "that the Lord calls you home, would you want your sister to say anything at your service?"
And then he said, "I would be honored."
And Leighton said, "What would you want her to say?"
LEIGHTON FORD: Long pause.
He said, "He tried to do what he thought he should."
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