ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- From his humble roots in Charlotte, to across the globe, Billy Graham's influence reaches far and wide.

As we celebrate his 95th birthday, it's hard to to ignore his lasting impact.

Graham and his sermons can be found online in dozens of YouTube videos, but before there was YouTube, there was the boob tube and the Crusades.

Dr. Ann Blue Wills is a Davidson College professor and is co-editing a book on Billy Graham.

"These meetings were designed as a kind of civic event and the roots of them went way down, or way up or way over to all different aspects of life," explained Wills of the Crusades.

According to Wills, the events pulled in all different kinds of people.

"It was attractive to people who maybe didn't necessarily think, I want to go hear the gospel preached. They would just want to go and hear what's going on," she said.

On TV, people tuned in including Pastor Steve Harris of Grove Stone Baptist Church.

"I remember even then, when the invitation came in and I saw these hundreds of people streaming forward. It just moved to tears to just think about the impact that that was having on people's lives."

Experts say the Crusades were groundbreaking in the presentation and the music.

"Billy Graham was able to use the latest and the best in terms of getting out the message and making it look good," said Wills.

As Graham's popularity grew, so did his influence. Every US President since World War II has met with the Reverend, starting with Harry Truman, where according to Wills, Graham learned a valuable lesson.

"He went to the White House and was invited in and prayed with Truman and then came out and the press was here and he spilled the beans...and Truman was furious."

Wills says, after that, Graham kept his counsel and the Presidents continue to line up, including President Barack Obama.

On Thursday, Graham will celebrate 95 years and the start of a new campaign, called My Hope.

According to Wills, "It's a century that he has had such an impact on. You cannot responsibly think about, no matter what you think about Billy Graham, you cannot tell the story of the 20th century without talking about him. That's just. That's it."


While Graham's birthday bash is private, others can celebrate in Charlotte. The Billy Graham Library has a special banner posted for visitors to sign. Every person who stops by the library Thursday will also get a special commemorative gift.

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