Billy Graham’s Letters to Presidents to Be Revealed

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We will soon be able to read much more about Billy Graham and his ministry when the Billy Graham Center Archives at Wheaton College opens on March 19, 2018. The archives include two new collections that had been embargoed by Graham and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association until the evangelist’s death on February 21, 2018.

The announcement was made by way of a statement from Wheaton archivist Robert Shuster:

The Billy Graham Center Archives at Wheaton College will open two new collections on the ministry of Rev. Billy Graham and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) on March 19. The collections are being opened to the public in accordance with the wishes of Graham, who died February 21, and the BGEA.

“These collections are a treasure house for anyone interested in Rev. Graham, American evangelicalism or global Christianity, among many other possible subjects,” says archivist Bob Shuster. “People will benefit from Rev. Graham’s generosity in making them available for many years to come.”

Collection 580 – Records of the BGEA: Montreat Office, 1940-1948, 1950-2012 includes letters, sermons, reports, memoranda, transcripts, clippings, manuscripts and other materials maintained at the Montreat, North Carolina office of the BGEA. Montreat was Graham’s personal office and administrative base for his ministry. Topics covered in the records include Graham’s management of the worldwide activities of BGEA; the planning and conducting of his evangelistic campaigns; his involvement in the work of other Christian institutions; numerous interviews; and articles by and about him that appeared in print and electronic media for decades. This collection also includes some files from Rev. Graham’s pre-BGEA ministry with Youth for Christ and The Village Church (now The Village Church/Western Springs Baptist Church) of Western Springs, Illinois. Complete information about the collection is available here.

Collection 685 – Records of the BGEA: Montreat Office – VIP Notebooks, 1946-2015 consists of digital copies of letters, photos, notes on phone conversations, programs, and other documents kept at the BGEA Montreat office in notebooks labeled VIP.

Most of these notebooks document Graham’s personal relationship with every US president from Harry S. Truman to Barack Obama. One notebook relates mostly to Pope John II; two others document contacts with various world leaders. Complete information on this collection is available here.

The documents in both collections are closed until they are 30 years old; some documents have additional restrictions.

The Billy Graham Center Archives is a department of Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. It collects, preserves and makes available materials about North American parachurch evangelism. For more information, visit the Archives’ website or its Facebook page.

The outlines of the collections show the archives will include Graham’s correspondence with a variety of influential people, mostly American presidents and their families, but also popes and the heads of state of other countries and a few miscellaneous notables.

The description of collection 685 says it contains a “few items of exceptional interest” including friendly notes, particularly with Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower, Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, George H.W. and Barbara Bush, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and George W. Bush.

Graham’s letters often contain comfort and encouragement for the sitting president and praise for recent activities. Graham also sometimes discussed political and social issues of the day.

Other collections include a variety of media such as audio and video recordings and pictures.

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Bob Ditmer
Bob Ditmer has worked in Christian media for more than 20 years including positions with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and Focus on the Family.

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