Billy Graham turns 95 on Thursday.
To put that in perspective: His life began in Charlotte four days before the end of World War I.
Quite a milestone, quite a life. And a lot of things are happening to mark Graham’s birthday:
-- A private party is planned for Thursday night at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville. Graham will be there, as will 600 or so others, including Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, Rupert Murdoch, Rick Warren and Ricky Skaggs.
-- A DVD featuring what is likely to be Graham’s final public message will be shown in the coming days at 25,000 churches as part of a national evangelical effort called “My Hope America with Billy Graham.”
-- The program will also air Thursday night at 10 on the Fox News Network. Murdoch, the network’s owner, traded letters with Graham about showing the video of him preaching from his Montreat home. Nearly 500 local TV stations are also set to show it. In it, Graham talks about the need for a spiritual awakening in America and how the cross of Christ "demands . . . a new lifestyle."
-- And there are two new books out: Graham’s own, “The Reason for My Hope: Salvation,” and “Billy Graham: A Life in Pictures,” from former Observer religion editor Ken Garfield and a corps of Observer photographers who’ve covered Graham over the decades.
But "Billy Graham: A Life in Pictures" ($19.99) is more than a photo collection. Garfield has tapped into his 12-plus years on the Billy Graham beat (1992-2005) to offer a rich supply of anecdotes and historical detail. Together, they tell you all about the Charlotte farm boy who became a globe-trotting evangelist and pastor to presidents.
“It’s meant to be an Everyman’s appreciation,” said Garfield, 60, now director of communications at Myers Park United Methodist. When he used that “Everyman” phrase with Graham aide David Bruce, Bruce replied, “That’s who Billy preached to.”
Garfield covered five Graham crusades – including in Germany, Charlotte and New York – and interviewed him a dozen times. In person or on stage, Garfield said, Graham was able to “make this connection. … His tenderness and humanity came through.”
Graham’s legacy? “His integrity,” Garfield said. “He got used by Nixon. But there was never any financial or sexual impropriety. … He figured out how to use all media. And he never really swayed from his basic message.”
Recently, in a letter from Montreat, Garfield’s book got a rave review – from Graham.
Garfield will speak and sign copies of his book at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday (Nov. 6) at Sharon Presbyterian Church, 5201 Sharon Road. Also, at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 10 at Levine Museum of the New South, 200 E. Seventh St. Reservations: firstname.lastname@example.org.