About 40 years ago, at 2 o'clock in the morning, Billy Graham was doing some sanctified arm-twisting. Graham had called on his boyhood friend T. W. Wilson. Wilson's ministry had diverged from Graham's; Wilson had served as a vice president of Youth for Christ and was itinerating as an evangelist. Now Graham wanted him back.

As Wilson later recalled, Graham said, "God has spoken to me that you are to come with me and help me."

"We've gone over this before," a dog-tired Wilson replied. "Now let's not spoil our friendship."

But Billy Graham told his friend (known to intimates simply as "T") why he needed him: "T, I need somebody who is an evangelist; I need somebody who knows me and my ministry, my family; I need somebody I can trust."

"I didn't want to come with Billy," Wilson said years later. But after consulting his wife, Mary Helen, and seeking God's will, he decided to set aside his own plans and devote himself to supporting Graham. "I have never regretted it," Wilson said.

T. W. Wilson did many things for Billy Graham, from managing his personal security to being his traveling companion. "T. W. was without question an extraordinarily important member of the team," Graham biographer William Martin told Christianity Today, "though less public than the others."

Behind the scenes, he worked as a diplomat, using his tremendous warmth and enormous fund of one-liners to turn opposition into cooperation. He served as an ambassador, maintaining contact with the thousands of people who felt they had a personal connection to Billy Graham. And in the inner circle, he was the trusted soulmate, on occasion saying no to Billy Graham, and telling him that one of his ideas wouldn't work or shouldn't be tried.

Wilson died on May 24 at age 82, ...

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