The open wounds of Alabama’s continuing social conflict received the healing balm of the Gospel during recent appearances in the state by evangelist Billy Graham—and there was evidence that in the communities he visited during a four-day tour, definite results were achieved. Leaders of both races told him: “We believe this will mark the beginning of a new day in our community.”
Graham announced at the outset that he had come, not to preach about racial problems, but to “preach the same Gospel I have preached all over the world.”
But he did indicate that outside his public meetings he wanted to talk with leaders of both races about the problems that have recently brought the state to the world’s attention. Graham told a reporter: “It is wrong for people in other parts of the country to point an accusing self-righteous finger at Alabama. To single out one state as a whipping boy often becomes just a diversion to direct attention from other areas where the problem is just as acute.”
Still some Alabamans accused him of coming “as President Johnson’s personal ambassador to soothe the feelings which Martin Luther King has ruffled.” (The announcement from Graham’s office that he had accepted invitations to preach in Alabama had coincided with a social visit by the Grahams to the White House, where they are occasionally invited guests.)
But that this did not reflect majority sentiment was borne out by the fact that he received more than thirty invitations from all sections of the state when he first announced his itinerary. Since he had canceled a number of private meetings in Great Britain to accept the first invitations, aides said it was impossible to accept others.
On the day Graham arrived in Dothan, a city of about 38,000 in the ...1
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