CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Evangelist Billy Graham has dined and prayed with world leaders and inspired folks from all walks of life -- and it all began in Charlotte.
William Franklin Graham Jr. started off simply. He was born four days before the end of WWI on Nov. 7, 1918, to William Franklin and Morrow Coffey Graham. They raised him on a dairy farm in Charlotte, that at the time was far out in the country. That location is known today as Park and East Woodlawn Roads. Graham says he spent a great deal of time in the haylofts reading books.
The population of the big city was around 30,000 in 1918.
"Charlotte was always, to me, the great metropolitan city of the world," Graham has said of the city. "The South, to me, was a place where people were gracious. It was a very mild and quiet type of life compared to today."
Graham's parents were religious and Billy followed suit, becoming a regular churchgoer. He admitted, however, he only paid lip service to religion until one night in high school when he heard well known evangelist Mordecai Ham speak in Charlotte in 1934.
"I was fascinated. Here was a man that stood up with an open bible and began to explain, scripture by scripture. I never heard such preaching. And I went back night after night. And one night I went forward. It was just a simple declaration that I wanted Christ in my heart," Graham said.
Graham went on to the Florida Bible Institute and became ordained in 1939. He then headed to Wheaton College in Illinois. It was there he met Ruth Bell, daughter of a missionary doctor. The two wed in 1943. The 50-year marriage produced three daughters, two sons, 19 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.
In the mid '40s, Graham helped start the Youth for Christ movement. He also joined forces with two friends, George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows. The three would grow old together.
His legacy bloomed after WWII. And the rest is history.