Rick Warren Reminds That Billy Graham Helped Integrate the South

World-famous evangelist hosted what were often the first integrated public events in cities across his native region in the 1950s, 1960s

Rev. Billy Graham’s impact on the world from which he departed early Wednesday morning is typically measured in terms of souls saved and professions of faith offered, but the world’s most famous Christian evangelist also boosted civil rights in America, according to one of his best-known followers.

“People forget that in the 1950s and the 1960s, Billy Graham insisted that all his crusades in the South be integrated,” Rev. Rick Warren said on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle” Wednesday. “And for many of those southern cities, his crusades were the publicly integrated events in those cities when he came to town, and he said, ‘I’m not coming if they aren’t integrated.'”

Warren is founder and senior pastor of Saddleback Church in California, and author of “The Purpose Driven Life” and “The Purpose Driven Church,” two of the best-selling evangelical books ever published.

Graham, 99, was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1918 and died in Montreat, in the same state. His wife, Ruth, passed away in 2007. He had suffered a number of health problems in the years since his wife died.

One of his sons, Rev. Franklin Graham, leads the Samaritan’s Purse ministry, which provides medicine, food, and spiritual aid to impoverished and endangered people around the world, and one of his daughters, Anne Graham Lotz, leads Angel Ministries and is the author of the best-selling “Just Give Me Jesus.”

Graham’s other children included daughters Gigi and Ruth, and son Ned Graham.

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Warren joined Rev. Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) and Tullian Tchividjian, one of Graham’s grandsons, in discussing with host Laura Ingraham the life and legacy of the humble North Carolina farm boy who found Christ at 16 and went on the share the Gospel with more than 215 million people around the world.

“Not only were they integrated ethnically and skin-color, [but] they were also integrated with all of the different traditions of Christianity. He said everybody’s got to be at the table,” Warren recalled of Graham.

Related: Billy Graham’s Purpose in Life: ‘Help Others Find a Personal Relationship with God’

“He put Catholics and Calvinists on the stage, and he put Protestants and pentecostals, and he put charismatics and fundamentalists and charismatics, and they were all there together. Some people got mad at that but he said, ‘I’m not coming if they aren’t all there,'” Warren said.

Robertson recalled that Graham delivered the keynote address in 1979 for the dedication of CBN’s main studio headquarters in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and that Graham was a constant encourager.

Robertson pointed to the evangelist’s humility as the key to his appeal.

“He always talked about the cross — he never talked about himself,” Robertson said. He was always humble. Never once did he ever take on some kind of airs about being a hot-shot even though he was the pre-eminent evangelical in the world.”

“He always talked about the cross — he never talked about himself,” Robertson said.

Tchividjian said Graham in private often displayed a great sense of humor but rarely realized just how funny he was. “Daddy Bill, that’s what we called him. he didn’t realize he was funny, but he had a remarkable sense of humor. Never took himself too seriously.”

Graham also didn’t think he was humble, Tchividjian said, but he also insisted that “it’s hard to be proud when you begin each day with God.”

Senior editor Mark Tapscott can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter.

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Mark Tapscott manages LifeZette's political coverage. He is an elected member of the First Amendment Center's Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame, has testified before Congress on transparency in government, and is a former CPAC Conservative Journalist of the Year. Reach him at [email protected].