On Mother’s Day, evangelist Billy Graham telephoned his greetings to his mother in Charlotte, North Carolina, then traveled the few blocks to the new 63,000-seat King County indoor stadium—dubbed the Kingdome—to open his eight-day crusade in Seattle. He was a bit apprehensive. Surveys several years ago showed that only 24 percent of Washington’s population claimed church membership, the lowest of any state. Seattle’s church-goers were correspondingly few in comparison with other large cities. On top of that the Sunday afternoon weather was perfect for outings to the mountains, and it was a holiday. Also, there were only 3,000 parking spaces. The evangelist feared that the 35,000 to 40,000 anticipated by organizers might not materialize, and he knew that a small crowd in a big stadium rarely made for spirited meetings.

Upon entering the Kingdome, the 57-year-old evangelist was showered with waves of applause—from more than 51,000 people. For the next four nights the crowds ranged from about 46,000 to nearly 58,000, according to estimates by the Kingdome’s management (a record of 58,100 had been set a short time earlier at a Seattle Sounders soccer game). On Friday night, with Johnny Cash as a featured musical attraction, virtually all seats were taken a half hour before the meeting began. The “field” area was finally opened, and thousands jammed in from the crowded ramps—until 74,000 persons were in place. Police turned away thousands more, and some late-arriving buses were simply waved on.

“I came only to hear Johnny Cash,” said a young woman from nearby Renton, “but I heard a lot more—and I’m going home with Jesus.”

More than 47,000 attended the next night’s youth rally, and 61,000 were on hand to hear Graham’s concluding ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.