Billy Graham Center

Collection 49 - Paul Luther Maier. T1 Transcript.

This is a complete and accurate transcript of the oral history interview of Paul Maier (CN 49, #T1) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words which were recorded are omitted. In a very few cases, the transcribers could not understand what was said, in which case "[unclear]" or "[?] were inserted. Also, grunts, verbal hesitations such as "ah" or "um" were usually omitted. Readers of this transcript should remember that this is a transcript of spoken English, which follows a different rhythm and even rule than written English.

... Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence of the speaker.

.... Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of an incomplete sentence.

() Word in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.

[] Words in brackets are comments made by the transcriber.

This transcription was made in November 1990 by Robert Shuster and Kerry Cox.

Collection 49, #T1. Interview of Paul Maier by Robert Shuster at Billy Graham Center's warehouse in Carol Stream, IL, November 9, 1978.

SHUSTER: It's November 9th, 1978 at [feedback noise from microphone] 2:30. An interview with Doctor Paul Maier. Interview...interviewer being myself, Bob Shuster. Dr. Maier, how did your father and Billy Graham first meet?

MAIER: I recall hearing the name several times in the late forties (Billy Graham's name, before he became famous). It was once in connection with a Christian businessman's meeting in Chicago at the Spinning Wheel. And sitting at the table (my father was the main speaker)...and sitting at the table was this tall, lanky, as yet unknown clergyman named Billy Graham who was serving his first charge [pastorate] in Western Springs, Illinois. And he was appealing to my father to come and give a special little talk to his...I think it was a layman's group or it could have been a congregational meeting in Western Spring's and the committee was suggesting that, "No, Dr. Maier is too busy for this sort of thing." But he, for some reason...I don't know if he...he realized that Dr. Graham was the...the future prophet that he would be, an evangelist or whatever it was, my father chose to do it. And this impressed Dr. Graham enormously because he made the later statement that the fact that the great Dr. Maier would take time out to visit the struggling young mission of a new clergyman impressed him very deeply. So he then went to Western Springs and talked to Billy Graham's group. Then the next time that I came into contact with Dr. Graham's name was less in connection with the...the famous "Puff Graham" telegram and so forth in the Southern California Crusade [of 1949], which happened very shortly after my father's final...right...shortly before my father's final illness and death. But it was when, in fact, we were at Lutheran Hospital in St. Louis (my father was dying) that we seemed to get a telegram about once or twice a day from this, to us, unknown individual really, until I put the two together, named Billy Graham. One [telegram] from the Minnesota headquarters at the Northwestern Bible Institute where he was President for a while, and the other from Boston Garden [where Graham an evangelistic crusade in 1950]. And one of the telegrams read, "15,000 Christians gathered in prayer for your recovery. Signed, Billy Graham." And I recall asking my mother who this was and then she supplied some of the detail, and I held one of the telegrams up to my father in the oxygen tent, and he smiled, knowing him, and shook his head, knowing who he was, and thrilled indeed, I suppose, in his last moments, that...that Dr. Graham knew he was ill and was praying for him, which I think is a kind of a perfect passing of the torch as it were, my father just dying, and then Dr. Graham coming to very sudden prominence after that. In fact he was on the way up then with the Boston Garden Crusade after the Los Angeles Crusade which came shortly afterwards. And then after that, in the early fifties and even sixties, whenever Dr. Graham came to Keel[?] Auditorium in St. Louis for one of his rallies, he would have my mother and me on the platform, and mention specifically the radio connection. When the Hour of Decision was debating whether or not to go on the air, they had dealt with Walter Bennett and Associates, the P.R. [public relations] group here in Chicago who had also been instrumental to The Lutheran Hour. And I think Dr. Graham felt that he might be filling a void here because The Lutheran Hour at the time, (although it's back on the rails now with the very eloquent man, too, Dr. Ozzy Hoffman) had two or three years there where, after my father's death, it was very shaky. And so they wanted to fill this void as it were in radio evangelism, and, for that reason...that was one of the things that was very instrumental in leading Dr. Graham into the Hour of Decision radio ministry which eventually became a television ministry, too. And Dr. Graham has always been very careful to mention that connection whenever he talks about his venture into radio evangelism, that...that my father was very influential in his life. And, of course, that's a thrill for a son to hear [laughs], knowing that the greatest evangelist of the twentieth century was, you know, put on in the course by my father, partially.

SHUSTER: Do you think, then, that was one of the reasons for the Hour of Decision's success, that, with your father gone, there was...there wasn't any comparable radio evangelist's on the air then...

MAIER: Well, I...I wouldn't...

SHUSTER: kind of fill the void?

MAIER: ...want to detract from Dr. Graham's own, you know, tremendous abilities in this respect. I think he's a natural. If you put him on the radio or on television he's gonna communicate and communicate tremendously effectively. I think my father's example led him expand his ministry in this area, sure. And...and I know there were, throughout the fifties and sixties, probably to this day yet, there were a lot good Christians who tune both programs.


MAIER: And, as you know, Dr. Graham and Dr. Ozzy Hoffman, my dad's successor, are very close friends anyway, and they affirm each other's ministries as they should. So it's a.... There are additional details which I haven't...I haven't read my own book here, for about fifteen years, A Man Spoke, A World Listened, which is my father's biography. Naturally, I will send you a copy and that kind of thing when know, for the...for the Archives and for the.... If you're interested in sort of a Maier memorial area there at your museum for evangelism or so, I'd obviously cooperate in every way possible. Bob was mentioning this to me earlier and there are a lot of good memorabilia that could be sent in there.

SHUSTER: You had mentioned.... I hadn't realized the connection of Walter Bennett and Company with The Lutheran Hour. They, of course, practically were the originators of Hour of Decision. Did they also originate The Lutheran Hour or how did that....?

MAIER: They were one of the public relations agencies involved in the Midwest for The Lutheran Hour. They didn't originate it. They came along later.

SHUSTER: They didn't the same role that they played in the Hour of Decision.

MAIER: The Lutheran Hour originated quite dramatically in, I think, a low-power transmitter in a south St. Louis attic. I mean, it was a really "rags to riches" story way back in the 1930's and....

SHUSTER: About the same time as Charles Fuller was.

MAIER: That's right. Yeah. Those...those two had quite an influence on American evangelical Christianity in the thirties and forties.

SHUSTER: In hearing Dr. Graham speak, have you ever noticed any influence of your father's speaking style on him, either the radio or in public?

MAIER: That's kind of hard to gauge specifically if, you know, mannerisms would be repeated or approach. I would say that both of them have a...a very whole-hearted, enthusiastic, emotional presentation which can't leave you cold, see. Here are people who are very much inspired by what they're doing. And they're powerful preachers, and they both were very powerful. And so I think that's a carryover. I mean this is not some disembodied, sterile, removed, intellectual communication here. It involves the intellect, certainly. My dad in particular, you know, was a Harvard graduate, so he was quite intellectual, but somebody described his speaking as the "soapbox delivery of a Harvard script" [laughs]. it's co...combination of both.

SHUSTER: [Unclear]

MAIER: Yeah, just off the top of my head, as I say, the last chapters of A Man Spoke give more detail on the Graham connection. But as I say, I'll have to read my own book to see what I wrote back in those days [laughs].

SHUSTER: As far as timewise, there was...they knew each other for a very short time....

MAIER: They knew each other for a very short time, but just enough of an overlap to pass the torch on, as it were, you know. It's been quite interesting.


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