Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Remembering Billy Graham

With great sadness, we have learned of the death of Dr. Billy Graham at the age of 99.

The Reverend Billy Graham was a National Treasure. Ron and I are proud to have called him our friend. His wise counsel to President's of the United States is impossible to measure.

Ron spent a great deal of time with Billy Graham over the years. They became acquainted because of their common bond, President Richard Nixon. As chief advance man for President Nixon, and founder of the first White House advance office, Reverend Graham asked Ron to come and talk to his crusade staff. That was in the 1970's and he wanted them to learn the finer points of raising a crowd and organizing large events. We were honored to spend time with him. He sat in our box during two events that Ron chaired, the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas and the 1985 Presidential Inaugural.

Fast forward to the funeral service for the 37th President at the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda, California. Ron had been asked, by the President, to arrange the service and Billy Graham had been asked to deliver the eulogy. Ron and I were staying at the Fullerton Marriott near the Library. The night before the service, the phone rang late in the evening and T.W. Wilson, a long-time aide to Dr. Graham, called and asked Ron come to Dr. Graham's room. Ron found the famous preacher, who suffered from phlebitis, propped up in bed, with his legs resting on several pillows. The two men talked about the service that was to be held the next day, and Ron was asked to pray with Dr. Graham about the event itself and the words that would be said. Billy Graham asked the Lord to guide them during the ceremony.

The day of the Funeral was a very unusual one for Southern California. A storm had moved in, rain was falling and lightening and thunder filled the normally sunny skies. Ron and Dr. Graham walked out of the library to await the arrival of the hearse accompanied by the Nixon daughters and their families. As the motorcade approached, a loud clap of thunder roared overhead. Dr. Graham said to Ron, "That is the Lord, welcoming the President to his house of many mansions." Ron replied, "Dr. Graham, sir, I think it was the Old Man, saying I am here to offer my help."

Dr. Graham wrote to Ron on July 28, 2009:

"Dear Ron, How wonderful to get a letter from you. I would like to congratulate you on being named president of the Richard Nixon Foundation. I had no better friend through the years than Richard Nixon. There were so many different sides to his life, and he was frequently misunderstood. I remember the long talks I had with him before, during, and after his presidency. Ron, I will never forget what a faithful friend you were to the president, and how highly he thought of you.
With warmest affection, (signed)"

One cannot help but wonder where those wise men, like Dr. Billy Graham, have gone.  Our country needs them, "Now more than ever," as the saying goes.  He will be missed.


Lorna Collins - said...

What a beautiful tribute. How fortunate you were to have known this wonderful man.

David H Kennerly said...

What a great piece! I first photographed Billy Graham at an event that Ron advanced in Knoxville, TN, 1970. Ron said that crowd pretty much raised itself!