Billy Graham Center

Who led Billy Graham to Christ and was it part of a chain of conversions going back to Dwight L. Moody?

Billy Graham was saved in 1934 during a series of revival meetings in Charlotte, North Carolina which were led by evangelist Mordecai Ham. You can find more information about Graham's conversion in the second chapter of his autobiography, Just As I Am (HarperCollins, 1997).

It is also sometimes said that there were a chain of conversions leading to Billy Graham's conversion. The most common version of the story is:

However, not all the links in this story are accurate

Dwight L. Moody did trace the beginning of his Christian life to his conversation with Edward Kimball. For more about Moody, see A Passion for Souls: The Life of Dwight L. Moody by Lyle Dorsett (Moody Press, 1997).

J. Wilbur Chapman was not converted at one of Moody's meetings. However, while a student at Lake Forest College in the late 1870s, he attended a Moody meeting in Chicago and after the service received personal counseling from Moody that helped him to receive certainty of his (Chapman's) salvation. Later Chapman became a friend and co-worker of Moody's. For more on Chapman, see J. Wilbur Chapman: A Biography by Ford C. Ottman (Doubleday, 1920).

Billy Sunday worked for Chapman for a brief time as an assistant, helping to organize his evangelistic meetings, but Sunday himself was converted at a street corner meeting held by the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago. For more about Billy Sunday, see Billy Sunday and the Redemption of Urban America by Lyle Dorsett (W. B. Eerdmans, 1991).

Mordecai Ham was not converted at a Billy Sunday meeting, However, Sunday had held an evangelistic campaign in Charlotte in 1924 and a men's prayer and fellowship group, originally known as the Billy Sunday Layman's Evangelistic Club and later renamed as Charlotte Businessmen's Club (CBMC), grew out of those meetings. (More information on this group can be found in the Vernon Patterson papers, Collection 5.) This group was later instrumental in inviting Ham to Charlotte for his 1934 meetings. For more about Ham, see 50 Years on the Battlefront with Christ: A Biography of Mordecai F. Ham by Edward E. Ham (Old Kentucky Home Revivalist, 1950).

Grady Wilson was a friend of and fellow evangelist with Graham. He went forward at the same 1934 meeting to make a deeper commitment to Christ. He tells the story of these meetings in his autobiography, Count It All Joy (Broadman, 1984) in a chapter entitled "Sunday, Ham, Billy and Me."

Please be aware that the purpose of this page is to provide information on some of the most relevant Archives holdings relating to this often-asked question. Because of staff and time limitations, the BGC archivists can spend no more than a half-hour helping an individual researcher; we have to focus our efforts on gathering the material and making it available. In order to find all the materials in the Archives on this particular topic, you will need to personally go through the guides to the various Archives collections available at this Web site and in the Archives Reading Room in the Billy Graham Center building in Wheaton, Illinois. If your request will take longer than the half hour we can provide, you will either need to come to the Archives yourself to do the necessary research in our collections, arrange for someone to come and do the research for you, or pay to use the Archives' research services.

You can also do further independent searching of the online database to explore what the Archives has on a wide variety of subjects. You will find only a very small sampling of the Archives actual documents on this Web site. Most of our Web pages only describe what is at the Archives in Wheaton. In most cases you must visit the Archives to use our collections, unless a collection (or portion of it) is available through inter-library loan or as a short-term loan for a fee. You may also find it helpful to visit Wheaton College's online catalog to its libraries and archives (including the Billy Graham Center Archives).

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