And when I got back there was a letter on my desk, and it was from
Jack Wyrtzen. And Jack had had breakfast with Billy during the New
York Crusade. So, Billy said to Jack...he said, "I have two burdens
on my heart." And Jack said, "What are they?" He said,
"Number one," he said, "we're not reaching enough blacks
and other minority peoples here in New York. I know there are thousands
of them, and I want these people to know that this is just not a white
man's Crusade, but it's for all races. We're not reaching them. That's
a burden. Secondly," he said, "I'm integrating my Team."
He said, "I've had to adopt Akbar Haqq to it." He said,
"In 1953 before the 1954 historical supreme court decision to
abolish discrimination, I decided I would no longer preach to segregated
audiences. So," he said, "I'm looking for a black evangelist,
but I don't know where to find one. I just don't know where to put
my hands on one." So Jack Wyrtzen said, "I've got the man.
His name is Howard Jones. He just got back from a thrilling, exciting
series of crusades in Liberia, Ghana and Nigeria." So Billy said,
"Do you know where you can find him?" He said, "Yes."
He said, "Well, write him and ask him if he would come to New
York." So I had this letter. And it was so strange, because Wanda
and I were getting ready to go to New York, after we came back, because
my former church wanted me to come and talk to them about....
FERM: This was in the middle of the 1957 Crusade...
JONES: That's right.
FERM: ...for Billy, that long, long crusade.
JONES: That's right. And they wanted me to go back to my former parishioners (the church did) to show my slides and my movies and hear my recordings. And I had said to Wanda...I said, "While we're up there in New York, let's take one night of our busy schedule and go to Madison Square Garden and hear Billy.” Now, that was in '57, but I had met him in '46, very briefly, when he preached a powerful sermon at Calvary Baptist Church. And I'11 never forget it. He was tall and handsome, and he had this beautiful white suit on and this colorful tie. And he preached about the woman taken in adultery. And I can still remember it. And I came home and said, "You know, Wanda, I heard a fantastic young preacher, handsome, and that fellow's name is Billy Graham. And," I said, "that guy's going places. You're going to hear about him." And that was in '46.
FERM: Before all his popularity.
JONES: That's right.
JONES: I was just so impressed with him. Then I heard him later on on radio. So....
FERM: I'll bet your Cleveland church was apprehensive about all this popularity you were getting overseas. They probably thought they might lose you.
JONES: Well, yes, because when I got ready to go, I promised them that when I came back we're going to build this new church. But then when I got over there and the crowds came, just thousands of people, and they beat the drums, you know, and they were chanting. And they pressed, touched us, and I got a little apprehensive at this close fellowship, because I couldn't understand what they were saying. But the missionary said, "Oh, they're just chanting and beating the drums.
FERM: They were telling you they loved you.
JONES: Yes. And they said this was the first time that they'd heard a black preacher from America.
FERM: [in a whisper] Is that right?
JONES: And to think that God in His providence brought one of their brothers, a brother and sister from America to tell them the Jesus story. They'd been converted by the missionaries and all, but this was the first. So, anyway, we got ready, flew up to New York, and I attended a Crusade. And then after it was over, the first Team member I met was Grady Wilson, and he was very gracious, and he says, "Come Howard." And so he took me in this room, and I saw Billy. And he was resting in the chair. And he got up and gave me a great big bear hug. I was a little nervous when he walked in to think I was going to meet this world's famous evangelist, you know. And others were in the room, and they were so cordial and friendly. And he gave me a great big bear hug and said, "God bless you, buddy." He said, "We've heard about your ministry." And so he said, "Sit down." So he told me about his concerns. One, that he wanted to reach more blacks and all. I said, "Well, Billy, I have lived in New York for six years and pastored here. And I've preached on a lot of the street corners in Harlem, right out in the open air. And," I said, "if you want to reach them, you should go to Harlern. He said, "What do you mean?" I said, "Go to Harlem and have a public meeting." I said, "Now, you may get some flak, not from blacks, but there might be some from whites because of the racial situation."
FERM: Was Harlem the dangerous place that it is purported to be now?
JONES: No, it wasn't. You see, you can't generalize. Even then there were beautiful sections of Harlem, you know, just like in any city you go into.
FERM: Surely, surely.
JONES: But Harlem has always been a very important cultural center for blacks in terms of music and drama and all the rest, which it still is. So he said, "Well, that's interesting." He said, "I'll go. Will you set it up?" I said, "Sure, because I know the leading preachers." And then he said, "Secondly, would you consider coming and serving as Associate Evangelist for five weeks?" At that point I said, "Well, I'll have to check on my church." So I said, "I don't know what they'll say, but if they'll let me come back, I'll set your meeting up in Harlem and work with you." So he said, "Well, let me write a letter." And I said, "If you write it, then I'll read it." So after the meeting I went back to Cleveland. Next Sunday I read this letter to the chuch, and I was kind of aprehensive because I did not know what they were going to say. So one of my trustees got up and he said...I read the letter and said, "Now, what is your pleasure?" And he said...well, they just were quiet, and this man got up. He said, "Well, I think this is an honor from the Lord. Just think, Billy Graham, the world's great evangelist wants our pastor." He said, "Think about that." And he said, "He wants him to come to work with him for five weeks. Now it's true the pastor has been away for three-and-a-half months." But he said, "So what?"
FERM: They surrvived for three-and-a-half months.
JONES: Yeah, yes. So he said, "Now pastor, I don't know if I am in order, but I would like to put this to a motion." And in my heart I was saying, "Put her there brother."
JONES: So I put it to a question, and they voted unanimously to send me. They said, "We'll carry on for another...."
FERM: That was a great send off, wasn't it?
JONES: Yeah. So I was just thrilled.
FERM: Did you have an associate pastor that could?
JONES: Yes. Not really, but we had friends that could come in.
JONES: So then I went back to New York. And now that was the sixth week of the crusade when I got there in June. And so the first thing I did was to go into Harlem and meet some of my former clergy friends and tell them about Billy's desire to come to Harlem. They were excited. So I set the thing up at Salem Methodist Church, a large church at 127th Street and Lennox Avenue I think it is. And I'll never...we got it all fixed with the police department. And they were going to rope off the street there so that the church was going to put benches out and have a big open air meeting. Everything was set. Well, when the news broke that Billy Graham was coming to Harlem, he got a lot of nasty letters. Oh, people cursed him.
JONES: Called him all kind of names.
FERM: White people?
JONES: Yes, they called him all kind of names. Said, "You're going to ruin your ministry by going up there with those folk." And some said, "We're not going to support you anymore." I saw some of the letters in the New York office. I read them. And, of course, the papers carried the news, me being the first, so that was all over the country. Nasty phone calls. Pastors said, "Billy you're crazy, you're going to just ruin your Crusade." And he said, "Howard, I don't care." He said, "Those that drop their gifts, God will...
FERM: Raise up some others.
JONES: ...others." He said, "We're going." So on the early afternoon I got a cab and I came by and picked up Cliff, Bev and Billy in the cab, going up to Harlem. On the way up it started to rain, just started to rain.
FERM: This was going to be in an outdoor event.
JONES: Yes, and I said, "Lord, why today?" I said, "I've got Billy Graham in this taxicab!" And so then Billy turned to me and said, "Say, Howard, do you think anybody's going to come out?" I said, "Oh yeah, Billy, they will. You're coming and they'll weather the rain. And it rained hard, and I prayed to the Lord, "Stop the rain." Again, he said, "It's raining quite heavily, do you think they'll come? I said, "Yes." So we got there, no one was outside. Not a soul. My faith was dampened.
FERM: I can imagine.
JONES: So, we got out of the cab and I said, "Well, come on, we'll go into the church." And as we went into the church, the vestibule of the church, we met the pastor and all these ministers. I introduced them to Billy and all. So I said to them, "Boy, it's pouring out there." They said, "Yeah, it really is, but I'll tell you, Howard and Dr. Graham, we've got good news. The main auditorium is packed with 3,000 people. There are 2,000...."
FERM: They invited them inside.
JONES: Yes, they brought them in. "There are 2,000 people downstairs, can't get another person into the church."
FERM: 5,000 people.
JONES: Yeah. And I said, "Thank you, Lord." [laughs] So....
FERM: It was really better that it was contained inside and you could get the message out better.
JONES: That's right. So just as we were getting ready to start the service, after Billy shook hands with a lot of people, one of the deacons came running in to the pastor and said, "Pastor, you know the rain has stopped. The sun is shining, it's a beautiful Sunday afternoon." So he turned to Billy and said, "Well, Dr. Graham, would you like to go outside? Billy said, "Well, it's all right with me if it's stopped." So they sent some people out there and wiped off all of these benches and the pastor announced over the loudspeaker system, "Everybody come outside." So we ended up with about 8,000. And Cliff led them in singing, and it was right out there in these tall apartment houses, and thousands of people opened their windows.
FERM: So they could hear.
JONES: Yeah, they opened their windows and they were looking out, leaning out, you know.
FERM: That was great.
JONES: So, Bev sang and then Billy preached. And there was a great response, but he couldn't invite any of them to come down. He said, "If you're going to accept Christ," he said, "raise your handkerchiefs." So these handkerchiefs were up. And he said, "I want you to be my guests. Will you come?" They said, "We'll be there, Billy." It was a moving service. And then afterwards we could hardly get them into the car because of the people.
FERM: Pressed on him, yes.
JONES: They said, "God bless you." Several people were weeping when they shook his hand. So they said, "We'll see you.” The next week we went to Brooklyn, and we had 10,000 there. And then they started coming, our people started coming, by the droves. Just that one visit.
FERM: That was the breakthrough.
JONES: That was the breakthrough. And then, of course, Cliff asked Ethel Waters, because she was coming to sing. And then Martin Luther King came.
FERM: I was in on a lot of those meetings.
JONES: Martin Luther King came, and that was some reaction, but Billy didn’t care, but because that broke down the barrier. So, I stayed ten weeks. Ten weeks.
FERM: Well, that Crusade went on for four months.
JONES: Yes, so I stayed right 'til the end, and then he said, "You know, we'd like to have you full time."