When people think of Billy Graham, they think "evangelist," "preacher," or even "godliness." They don't think "leader." This is a mistake according Harold Myra and Marshall Shelley inThe Leadership Secrets of Billy GrahamMyra and Shelley, Christianity Today International CEO and editorial vice president respectively, interviewed dozens of people who have observed or worked closely with Graham, and they describe the many ways Graham has exerted strong and wise leadership. The following excerpt shows Graham leading on race, especially during his 1957 New York City crusade.
At first Graham tried to carve a middle ground that opposed both forced integration as well as forced segregation. He relied on the example of Billy Sunday, who had followed local custom by preaching to integrated audiences in the North and to mostly segregated audiences in the South. So, in many of his earliest meetings, Graham followed suit.
But the dramatic times left little maneuvering room for moderates. Reporters demanded to know why he could not speak to integrated audiences in South Carolina and Georgia just as he did in California and Massachusetts. They asked why he never addressed racism in the South.
Graham chose to make his stand in the heart of the segregated South. He initially agreed to segregate the audience during his 1952 campaign in Jackson, Mississippi, but rejected Governor Hugh White's suggestion to conduct separate meetings for blacks. Meanwhile, Graham prepared to make a much bolder statement. Holding segregated events had always struck him as wrong, but he'd never chosen to take decisive actionuntil now. Walking toward the ropes that separated blacks and whites, Graham tore them down.
Mystified and uncomfortable ushers tried to ...