Introduction: “Bowed in Prayer”—Resurrecting the Assassinated King

  • Michael G. Long


“There on the golf course I had all the journalists and the others gathered around, and we bowed in prayer for Dr. King’s family, for the United States, and for the healing of the racial divisions of our world.” It must have been a jolting feeling for Billy Graham as he bowed his head after finishing a relaxing round of golf in Brisbane, Australia, where he was holding yet another successful crusade. Graham had just received news that Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated, shot while checking the weather from the balcony of his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. The civil rights leader had gone to Memphis at the invitation of his good friend, James Lawson, to help the city’s sanitation workers, the lepers of the American workforce, in their battle for economic justice against a belligerent, racist mayor. “I was almost in a state of shock,” Graham recalled. “Not only was I losing a friend through a vicious and senseless killing, but America was losing a social leader and a prophet, and I felt his death would be one of the greatest tragedies in our history.”1


Economic Justice Social Thought Racial Division Social Leader Contemporary Political Philosopher 
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  1. 1.
    Billy Graham, Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham (San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFransisco, 1997), 696.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Quoted in Marshall Frady, Billy Graham: A Parable of American Righteousness (Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, 1979), 416.Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    David L. Chappell, A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 140–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 10.
    I say “credible” because there is also a corpus of vitriolic and academically unhelpful writings against Graham, especially from rabid fundamentalists. For a credible book-length critique, see the overlooked Joe E. Barnhart, The Billy Graham Religion (Philadelphia, PA: Pilgrim Press, 1971).Google Scholar
  5. Although often hyperbolic, the sharpest analysis and criticism of Graham continues to be William McLoughlin, Billy Graham: Revivalist in a Secular Age (New York, NY: Ronald Press, 1960);Google Scholar
  6. a far less substantive and mostly unhelpful critique is Chuck Ashman, The Gospel According to Billy (Secaucus, NJ: Lyle Stuart, 1977).Google Scholar
  7. The best biography by far is William Martin, A Prophet with Honor: The Billy Graham Story (New York, NY: William Morrow & amp; Company, 1991); although Tom Wicker has accused Martin of being unduly sympathetic, all other biographies come nowhere near the critical analysis that he offers. Among the few critical articles, the best are those written by Richard Pierard on the evangelist’s presidential and war politics. Unfortunately, the hagiographic, or at least relatively uncritical, literature on Graham is simply enormous.Google Scholar
  8. For example, see David Aikman, Great Souls: Six Who Changed the Century (Nashville, TN: Word, 1998);Google Scholar
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  11. George Burnham, Billy Graham: A Mission Accomplished (Westwood, NJ: Revell, 1955);Google Scholar
  12. George Burnham and Lee Fisher, Billy Graham: Man of God (Westchester, IL: Christian Readers Club, 1958);Google Scholar
  13. Russ Busby, Billy Graham, God’s Ambassador: A Lifelong Mission of Giving Hope to the World (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1999);Google Scholar
  14. Charles T. Cook, The Billy Graham Story: “One Thing I Do” (London: Marshall, Morgan & amp; Scott, 1954);Google Scholar
  15. Glenn Daniels, Billy Graham: The Man Who Walks with God (New York, NY: Paperback Library, 1961);Google Scholar
  16. Lewis A. Drummond, The Evangelist (Nashville, TN: Word Publishers, 2001); The Canvas Cathedral (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003); The Early Billy Graham: Sermon and Revival Accounts ed. Joel A. Carpenter (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1947);Google Scholar
  17. Robert O. Ferm, Cooperative Evangelism: Is Billy Graham Right or Wrong? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1958);Google Scholar
  18. John French, My Fight with Billy Graham (Memphis, TN: C. Goodman, 1959);Google Scholar
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  20. Lewis William Gillenson, Billy Graham and Seven Who Were Saved (New York, NY: Trident Press, 1967);Google Scholar
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  22. Helen Kooiman Hosier, Transformed: Behind the Scenes with Billy Graham (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1970);Google Scholar
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  24. David Lockard, The Unheard Billy Graham (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1971);Google Scholar
  25. Curtis Mitchell, Billy Graham: The Making of a Crusader (Philadelphia, PA: Chilton Books, 1966); Billy Graham, Saint or Sinner? (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell, 1979);Google Scholar
  26. Ronald Paul, Billy Graham: Prophet of Hope (New York, NY: Ballantine Books, 1978);Google Scholar
  27. David Poling, Why Billy Graham? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1977);Google Scholar
  28. John Charles Pollock, Billy Graham: The Authorized Biography (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1967); Billy Graham, Evangelist to the World: An Authorized Biography of the Decisive Years (San Francisco, CA: Harper & amp; Row, 1979); Billy Graham: Highlights of the Story (Basingstoke: Marshalls, 1984); The Billy Graham Story (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003); Crusades, 20 Years with Billy Graham (Minneapolis, MN: World Wide Publications, 1969); To All the Nations: The Billy Graham Story (San Francisco, CA: Harper & amp; Row, 1985);Google Scholar
  29. Maurice Rowlandson, Life with Billy: An Autobiography (London: Hodder & amp; Stoughton, 1992);Google Scholar
  30. Gerald S. Strober, Graham: A Day in Billy’s Life (Old Tappan, NJ: Spire Books, 1977); Billy Graham, His Life and Faith (Nashville, TN: Word Books, 1977);Google Scholar
  31. Jay Walker, Billy Graham: A Life in Word and Deed (New York: Avon Books, 1998);Google Scholar
  32. Sam Wellman, Billy Graham: The Great Evangelist (Ulrichsville, OH: Barbour and Company, 1996);Google Scholar
  33. Terry Whalin, Billy Graham (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2002);Google Scholar
  34. Grady Wilson, Billy Graham as a Teenager (Wheaton, IL: Miracle Books, 1957);Google Scholar
  35. Jean Wilson, Crusader for Christ: The Story of Billy Graham (Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1973);Google Scholar
  36. Sherwood Eliot Wirt, Billy: A Personal Look at the World’s Best-Loved Evangelist (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1997).Google Scholar
  37. 11.
    William F. Buckley, Jr., Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2004), 326.Google Scholar

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© Michael G. Long 2006

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  • Michael G. Long

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