Gary Palmer: Remembering Reverend Billy Graham

Gary Palmer

Alabama 6th District U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer on Wednesday delivered a speech on the House floor to remember the legacy of Reverend Billy Graham. Reverend Graham will lie in honor in the Rotunda at the United States Capitol on Wednesday.

Below is the text of Palmer’s speech:

I want to thank my good friend Mr. Hultgren for arranging this opportunity to honor Billy Graham. Mr. Speaker, tomorrow we will witness something that we have never seen before –  the laying in honor of the body of an American who was not a government official, didn’t lead a political movement, and wasn’t a war or social movement hero. A nation will mourn a man who was single-minded in his devotion to one thing.

His life and vocation centered on one thing and one thing only: proclaiming the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ. I hope we pay close attention to this. We will most likely never see it again.  In Mark, Jesus tells his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. Few people followed this instruction more faithfully than Reverend Billy Graham, and with as much success and impact.

Billy Graham has been called “America’s Preacher.” But the fact of the matter is that he was for many decades the most recognized and respected evangelical in the world. Reverend Graham preached the gospel to more than 200 million people during his more than 400 Crusades and rallies in more than 185 countries and territories.

The impact of those reached through TV, radio, video and the Internet is unquantifiable. Reverend Graham did this sacrificially, giving up many opportunities for other, much more lucrative opportunities that most people would have jumped at, were they given the opportunity. Reverend Graham estimated that he was gone from home for about 60% of his children’s adolescence.

Despite being a pseudo-single mom, his wife Ruth understood the importance of the sacrifice. She once said, “I’d rather have a little of Bill than a lot of any other man.” In a time when Christians are so often shunned and ridiculed, particularly those who have major followings, Billy Graham was almost universally regarded as a steady and well-respected voice. He appeared on Gallup’s list of Most Admired Men in America 60 times since 1955 – that’s every year since the research firm began asking the question.

“He counseled and covered in prayer every president from Truman to Trump. Former President Clinton said, “When he prays with you in the Oval Office or upstairs in the White House, you feel he is praying for you, not the president.” That’s the magnitude of this man

No matter how big or small you were, he cared about you, not your position. Titles and wealth and social stats didn’t matter to Reverend Graham. The only position of a person that mattered to him was their eternal position before God.

And race did not matter either. Reverend Graham was courageous. When other church leaders remained silent, he was an outspoken advocate for racial equality, consistently stating, “Christ belongs to all people.” In 1951, he called for the Southern Baptist Convention to accept black students at their colleges. At a 1953 crusade in Tennessee he personally took down ropes segregating the audience. In 1957, during his crusade in New York, he invited Martin Luther King, Jr. to open one night with prayer. Despite his actions, he said he wished he would have done more to help Dr. King. In 1964, just months after the bombing at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, Reverend Graham brought his crusade to Birmingham.

Before he agreed to come, Reverend Graham insisted that the audience be integrated. Over 30,000 people attended, making it, at the time, the largest integrated audience in the history of Birmingham. The next year, he spoke to an integrated audience in Tuscaloosa, Alabama with the University of Alabama president Frank Rose and head football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant with him on the stage.

Mr. Speaker, I don’t believe there is or will be anyone else in our lifetime that so clearly and effectively called people out of spiritual darkness into the light than Billy Graham. Untold millions were exposed to the saving message of the gospel through his ministry. I mourn the void in moral and spiritual authority that, with his death, has been left in this world, but I rejoice in knowing that he is finally at home and at rest with God.

As it is written about David in Acts 13:36, so it can be said of Billy Graham: “He served God’s purpose for his generation.

Thank you, and I yield back.