Evangelist Billy Graham in Las Vegas?

This month Graham conducted a five-day crusade there and attracted the largest crowds in Las Vegas history. Attendance ranged from about 10,000 to more than 13,000, and several hundred walked forward at the conclusion of every service to register their decisions for Christ.

The evangelist won a special place in the hearts of many Las Vegans. “I did not come here to condemn Las Vegas,” Graham announced at the outset of the meetings. “I came here to preach the Gospel.” The audience appreciatively applauded his statement.

Many of the city’s residents—including evangelical church leaders—feel that Las Vegas undeservedly has a bad image in the eyes of the rest of the country, and they react defensively when outsiders come through and refer to it as Sin City.

Las Vegas is currently a boom town. In 1960 its population was less than 60,000. Today it exceeds 350,000 and is still growing rapidly. The well-manicured newer neighborhoods that sprawl eastward from the Strip (the main north-south boulevard of hotels and casinos) look much like their counterparts in cities in other states. The school system is known for its excellence, and the city’s government is considered clean.

Northeast of the city is Nellis Air Force Base, the largest fighter-training base in the country. Dependents included, more than 15,000 live there. (Delegations of hundreds attended the Graham meetings, which were held in the exhibition hall of the Las Vegas convention center.)

To the west is the city’s black neighborhood, where 50,000 or so live, and to the south is Henderson with its chemical plants.

Tourism and gambling are the city’s main industries. Thirty conventions ...

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