Billy Graham Center

Collection 357 - Ruth (Duvall) Crawford Porter. T16 Transcript

Click here to listen to an audio file of this interview (22.25 minutes).

This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of Ruth (Duvall) Crawford Porter (CN 357, T16) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words have been omitted, except for any non-English phrases which could not be understood by the transcribers. Foreign terms which are not commonly understood appear in italics. In very few cases words were too unclear to be distinguished. If the transcriber was not completely sure of having gotten what the speaker said, "[?]" was inserted after the word or phrase in question. If the speech was inaudible or indistinguishable, "[unclear]" was inserted. Grunts and verbal hesitations such as "ah" or "um" were usually omitted. The transcribers have not attempted to phonetically replicate English dialects but have instead entered the standard English word the speaker was expressing.

Readers should remember that this is a transcript of spoken English, which follows a different rhythm and rule than written English.


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


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


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


 [ ]        Words in brackets are comments by the transcriber.

This transcript was made by Kirk Hayward and Wayne D. Weber and was completed in April 2008.

Collection 357, T16. Interview of Ruth (Duvall) Crawford Porter by William A. Drury, August 18, 1981.

DRURY: I went up to the hospital on Sunday and I know that Percy was on oxygen and they were feeding him intravenously and I stayed for quite a few hours and then I called you on Monday at the hospital and they seemed to think that the crisis was over, really, that...that he was doing [pauses] what.... Monday...Monday...Monday evening, what was it, about six o’clock he went home to be with the Lord? Is that your recollection?

PORTER: Yes. I guess he hadn’t eaten anything, naturally for a couple of days, and they brought him a tray and I remember it was lovely china and everything. I think it was because he was a minister [laughs], really. And there was some soup or Jell-O or something and I was trying to feed it to him and, you know, I thought he should eat it. They had brought it up and I said, “Try to eat some of this,” and he would just kind of gag on every bite and I think he got a few bites down and then he started coughing or I don’t know, something. And he said...he didn’t...sometimes he would say, “Get the nurse,” if he wanted the nurse, but I think this time he said, “Get the doctor.” And so I ran out and...but the doctor was out to dinner or something but...I guess an intern, somebody came up. And I could hear them...hear him in there making these strange noises, I don’t know whether.... I suppose he was dying then. I just thought he was choking. And they came out and I could tell by the look on their faces. They didn’t...they didn’t say much and I think there was a black nurse that came out and I asked her how he was and she just said, “The doctor will tell you,” or something. Well, I just thought from that [laughs] something had happened and sure enough they just came out and said he had passed away. And then...but I don’t...I didn’t even get back in there. I would have liked to have gone back and seen him a few minutes, you know, even though he was dead but it just seemed like they came in and whisked him right out. I don’t know where they took him. I never...I don’t remember ever seeing him.

DRURY: Was there anybody there with you at the...?

PORTER: Yes, my sister, Esther, and her...Esther Eden and her husband Tom Eden were with me. They were with me at the time and maybe, I’m not [pauses]...well, I don’t know whether...I don’t know whether Alex Dunlap, he was there one time, I think. I don’t know whether he was there right at that particular time or not. I don’t know.

DRURY: Well, if we could switch gears, what was your part in the ministry? You said back at the beginning that you played for Percy in a quartet?

PORTER: Yes, I played the piano and then brought over the original quartet. We always had a quartet. And we had soloists: Hilda Schmeiser and some of the quartet boys would sing solos. And we got a little orchestra together and it was...really, it was just a wonderful opportunity for me [laughs] to express my music because it was just...I’ll never get over the opportunity the Lord gave me. And in 1949.... Well, the radio started in ‘31 and then we were on a morning devotional program, Pinebrook Praises.

DRURY: Pinebrook Praises, yes.

PORTER: But I don’t know the exact year that started. That [pauses]...that would probably be in the 40s. And then in the 40s we were on the whole Mutual Network.

DRURY: Radio?

PORTER: Radio. Sunday morning we were on over four hundred stations, the whole Mutual Network and that’s when our bill was about ten thousand dollars a week in those days.

DRURY: And what year would you...would you have gone on television?

PORTER: And then we started television the fall of ‘49. [October 9, 1949]

DRURY: Is that Sunday nights was it?

PORTER: Yes, it was WFIL. We went down there to the studio and I know it was ‘49 because Donna was born in December of ‘49 and I just played behind the organ. They didn’t [laughs] show anything but my face and [pauses] I know, they would when I played the piano and the organ and so forth. And then she was born December 10, 1949, and then probably a couple of weeks after that or (oh, I don’t know when) a short time after that, well, Percy, of course, showed her picture on TV but I don’t know exactly when she came on live [laughs]. But the children [door closes], they...they would have started out on TV, right in the beginning, the four boys singing, I’m sure and then when she was able, she would sit there and wave her hands and lead the boys while they sang.

DRURY: There were five children altogether, four boys?

PORTER: Five children: Don, Dick, Dan. Dean and Donna Lee.

DRURY: The Five Ds.

PORTER: Five Ds. That wasn’t planned that way at all. We just, I don’t know...we just named him Donald Bruce and then Richard Torrey. He was named after Reuben Torrey, the...the evangelist or preacher.

DRURY: Yes, Percy...Percy has a lot of his material and...and knows....

CRAWFORD: Yes. Oh, he...yes, he liked Dr. Torrey so much. So Richard was named for him, Richard Torrey. But they were so close in age. They were only sixteen months apart and everything was Donnie, Dickie, Donnie, Dickie. That was just.... So then when the third one came along, then that’s when we got the idea to go on with the D’s. It really wasn’t planned until Dan and so Dan and Dean and Donna. [laughs]

DRURY: The Five Ds. [pauses] You have any...any highlights, you know, in any of the...of the churches that you were in, maybe...maybe now these things come to mind? Any of the.... While you’re thinking about that one, we...I...I think we should say in this day of TV preachers that...that Percy was probably the...the first...first evangelist to go on...on TV. And perhaps, it seemed to me that on Sunday night he was on...on coast-to-coast on ABC Young People’s Church of the Air.

CRAWFORD: Well, that...that was my impression. I thought we were on coast-to-coast and I know we had a station in Chicago and [pauses] that...(was it Dumont Network or something?).... It was kinescopes that we have those....

DRURY: They used film back in those days, sixteen millimeter film.

PORTER: But he was...I thought he was the pioneer on television.

DRURY: Some people have said that. How far do you travel in your ministry?

PORTER: Well in those early years we always traveled about forty thousand miles a year..that’s what it.... We were out every night. And there weren’t any turnpikes or thruways or anything in those days. We’d be in Baltimore one night and way out in Long Island the next night or Binghamton, New York. It was really, I don’t know. Of course I’m older now and I couldn’t now I guess but I don’t.... I wonder how we did it then. It was just...we’d sleep in the car, you know. But...we really put on the miles. Percy was a good driver.

DRURY: I think that...I think that young men who are training for the ministry think that the life of an evangelist...of course, today, it’s altogether a different ball game, but back...back then, they couldn’t conceive...I don’t even think that the people that you ministered to could conceive of what happened between meetings. That the...that the Reverend Dr. Crawford and Ruth Crawford arrive, and she...she’s at the organ, or you know, the piano, whatever the case may be, and wide eyed, and bushy-tailed and all of that and have understanding or comprehension of what...of what you might have gone through, you know, to get to that particular meeting.

PORTER: I know, it was...and you had to sacrifice your family, I mean, you weren’t with your family, they...they came to some local meetings with us, and they were always on...they were on the radio in the mornings, and on TV, but I guess they really felt neglected, and I [laughs] We...we tried to have a family and do the work too, but I...I suppose the family suffered because of that, because they...I guess they felt neglected. It’s hard, to know what to do.

DRURY: And so used a lot of music in the meetings.

PORTER: Oh, we always had....Percy wanted that. He thought people enjoyed the music, and...and you know, the television, all the...our half hour programs, it was almost twenty minutes of music, see, and then he would take the last ten, at the....

DRURY: Wrap it up.

PORTER: He always felt that music....

DRURY: Now, were you in charge of music, did you....


DRURY: Did you lay it out as to what would be done in any particular program?

PORTER: Yes. And then, when we had the orchestra, I wasn’t...I didn’t do those arrangements so much, I did some, but Bob Brooks was very good with his arrangements, and well, I guess Neil Fictorn [?] did some orchestrations too, of course, Clayton Irv, he was very good. I did most of the vocal arranging, and the arranging of the programs, and so forth, which I loved to do.

DRURY: Were there any...any ministries that Percy tried to start, you know, that didn’t get off the ground? Young People's Church of the Air, Youth on the March, King’s College, Pinebrook Mountainbrook, Shadowbrook, radio, television, all of these things, or....

PORTER: The college.

DRURY: The college, King’s College.

PORTER: And, well you mentioned the Korean mission.

DRURY: King’s Korean Mission, Dr. Peter Pak. I went over there. Donnie...Donnie asked me to go over in 1963. I went over to Korea, to look in on that ministry, so that was...that was a foreign mission ministry, that Percy had started. Seems to me that this fellow, Peter Pak went to King’s College, was a student at King’s.

PORTER: Did he?

DRURY: And that’s...that’s how he got to know Percy, and Percy raised the monies, I guess, for that mission in Korea.

PORTER: Well, the only thing, just before he died, do you remember he was talking about a retirement home for older people, or something?

DRURY: Now that you...yes, now that you mention it, yes.

PORTER: And I...and he knew he wasn’t in very good health himself, and I...I just remember saying to him “Don’t talk to me about it,” because I thought, you know, “Oh, not starting something else.”

DRURY: Something else.

PORTER: Because he had to be starting something all the time.

DRURY: Well, I think the TV stations....I talked, you know, to Percy Monday after Monday, he had his office on the second floor, and I was up on the third floor, the Youtharama office, such as it was, was up on the...on the third floor. That the TV station was the thing that really drained him, I think. Financially, and physically, and mentally, and every other way, I think it was was a burden.

PORTER: With Channel 17.

DRURY: Channel 17.

PORTER: Oh, yeah.

DRURY: That was...

PORTER: I often wondered if...if he had lived, whether he could have made it go. I don’t know.

DRURY: Oh, I’m sure. I’m sure. I say that because I happen to be one of the people, you know, that worshiped the ground that he walked on, you know. I thank and praise...

PORTER: You and me both. [laughs]

DRURY: Yes! I thank and praise and bless God for the...for the days and the times and the things that I learned, I said that the..for the times that I sat at Percy Crawford’s feet, there is no way that you could trade that in for all the college, seminary experience. Of course, I never went to seminary, but...but the lessons that I learned, and the chuckles...the chuckles, some of the things that...that I experienced, you know, with Percy Crawford, and I should say this, that when I came to Philadelphia, when I moved to Philadelphia from New York, people said that “You ought to hear two men when you’re down there. One is Percy Crawford, and the other is Dr. [Donald Grey] Barnhouse.” Never heard Dr. Barnhouse preach, I was never in Tenth Presbyterian Church, Percy Crawford went home to be with the Lord on Monday, Don Barnhouse went home on Saturday night.

PORTER: Was he...was he after Percy? I thought he was Friday...

DRURY: After Percy.

PORTER: He was after Percy.

DRURY: After Percy. Saturday night. How I know that, Ruth, is that Percy, even when I talked when he was on oxygen, you know, when I went, first words out of Percy Crawford’s mouth, when I went in that room, after you saw me out in the corridor, and said “Willie,” you know, “Willie,” is that what you called....

PORTER: That’s my nickname for you.

DRURY: Right. And I went in, and first words out of Percy B. Crawford’s mouth was “Are you paid up to date?” “Are you paid....” [laughs]


DRURY: So he showed concern, you know. showed concern.

PORTER: And was that the Sunday night?

DRURY: Saturday night, yeah...Sunday night, Sunday night, Sunday. So then he said “I’ll...I’ll be there at Youtharama.” He said “I’ll...I’ll be at Youtharama, don’t change anything which would be the next Saturday.” He said, because we heard it had it first and third Saturday, and so the next Saturday would have been Youtharama. And he said “I’ll be there, don’t change anything.” So we went ahead with the rally Saturday night. We went ahead with the rally Saturday night, and somebody came backstage and said that Don Barnhouse had died that day, Saturday.


DRURY: So that’s how I...I knew it was Saturday night. And Percy had died Monday, and...and Barnhouse on Saturday, and somebody said that they never knew how Heaven could stand it, you know, Percy Crawford and Don Barnhouse going through the Gates during the same week.

PORTER: And then he...I think, didn’t he have a brain tumor?

DRURY: Yes he did. And he lingered and he lingered and he lingered, and Percy had said to me one week before Percy died, Percy had said to me, just before we went out to lunch, and I think we joined you for lunch down at the steak house, down on Chestnut Street, and Percy said he had called to see how Barnhouse was doing, called the hospital, and when he got out from behind that desk, there, by Mrs. McCutcheon, [?] walked around the desk, and he said “Bill, when I go, I want to go with my boots on. I don’t want to go the way that Don Barnhouse is going.” He said “He is a suffering man.” And he had suffered with his tumor. Dr. [C. Everett] Koop [later the Surgeon General of the United States] and some other people tried to do everything that they could for Barnhouse, and he said “When I die, I want to die with my boots on.” And one week later, of course Saturday night, as you said,...


DRURY: He was on his way to preach the Gospel, in Lancaster, and then, on Monday night, which would have been one week exactly, he went home to be with the Lord, after he had made that statement. He said “When I die, I want to die with my boots on, not the way, you know, Barnhouse is dying.”

PORTER: Well, someone said that, you know, Barnouse dying of the brain tumor, he was more of a Bible teacher, you know like a...

DRURY: He was a brain and a half, yes, I know.

PORTER: Right. Yeah. And then Percy died with a heart...

DRURY: [laughs]

PORTER: ...heart attack. He had more of a heart message. Isn’t that funny, making that comparison....

DRURY: Yes, about that, very...

PORTER: Between the two.

DRURY: I never thought of that. But I know that Percy Crawford was a hellfire and brimstone “whosoever will” evangelist, and I remember Percy saying to me, and I guess...I’m sure that Percy was a Calvinist, said that he did have a church one time, a small pastorate.

PORTER: Yes, it was a...I...I’m not sure, I believe it was a Baptist church. It was in Ronhurst, [?] that was the town, that’s.... It might have been when he was in seminary, see, he had this little church, and that’s where he met...first met Walter Haman, who was the...Roosevelt’s...

DRURY: Bodyguard.

PORTER: Bodyguard, and...

DRURY: And he began a work called New Life Boys Ranch

PORTER: Right. Uh-huh.

DRURY: And I spoke to him just about two weeks ago, at a CBMC [Christian Business Men’s Committee] Banquet, how about that.

PORTER: And he did have that little church. That was, oh I guess almost before I knew him, really, that church.

DRURY: Well, thank you ever so much, and I certainly hope that they can use this out at Wheaton.

PORTER: Well, I’ve enjoyed doing it Bill. I’m sorry my memory isn’t quite up to par. [laughs]

DRURY: Mine isn’t that good.

PORTER: When you get to be my age, why....Percy would be seventy-nine, if he were living this October.

DRURY: Seventy-nine. How old was he when you...when...twenty...fifty...fifty-eight?

PORTER: Fifty-eight when he died, and it’ll be twenty-one years this October, so he would be seventy-nine now, if he were living. He didn’t look... he didn’t look his age at all...


PORTER: know, when he was fifty-eight, because of course, he had no grey hair, and he looked well, but he got a little haggard, he was weaker, I think, than we....

DRURY: Well, I...I felt, you know, very definitely, that the TV station was very burdensome, very burdensome. You know, a lot of monies involved,...

PORTER: Well, something really...oh.

DRURY: Much more so than the radio stations you started. But the TV station was...was a burden and a half, and it was going nowhere, back in those days, and we didn’t have the people, the personnel do the job correctly, and it was a very expensive proposition. I...I knew the cameras, the TV cameras and everything, were very, very expensive, and I think that....

PORTER: He probably bit off a little more than he could chew, I mean, he just wanted that Christian radio network so badly, and then he thought he could get into TV, I guess. It was just maybe too much.

DRURY: But had he lived, had he lived, like you say, I...I think that he would have made it, he would have made it go, you know. They can...they can talk about the way that he spread out, of course, they say that with businessmen, when you’re doing, it’s expansion, if you do something wrong, then you overextended yourself. But as long as you’re doing it, whether it’s Acme market or anybody else, and you’re expanding, expanding, expanding, it’s great, but as soon as something goes wrong, you know, financially, then they say that...that “So and so has overextended himself.” And they...they felt with the 17. But, had he lived, Percy could squeeze a dollar and make two out of it, you know.

PORTER: Well, Pinebrook, I’m sure, would still be.

DRURY: Oh, yes.

PORTER: In spite of all the other conferences opening up after Pinebrook, but...

DRURY: Would you say that that was his first love, Pinebrook, first priorities, or...?

PORTER: Well....

DRURY: Doing the work of an evangelist, preaching, giving an invitation.

PORTER: He...he sure loved it. I know he wanted to be buried there. He said “Just bury me at Pinebrook.”

DRURY: Yes, yes.

PORTER: But, of course, the college, having a board, a big board and everything, that’s been able to go on very well, but...but.... Pinebrook just got to be too much for us too, you know. Poor Dick, [Dr. Robert A. Cook, President of King’s College] he did manage it for eight years, and did fairly good.

DRURY: Was it eight years? I...I didn’t know it was...

PORTER: From ‘60 to ‘68.

DRURY: Is that right. I didn’t know it was that long.

PORTER: But the crowds were naturally falling off, it was built around Percy, and then, like I say, there were so many Bible conferences opening up.

DRURY: And they have fallen by the wayside. They have...

PORTER: Have they too?

DRURY: Oh, many. Most of your...big one out at Winona Lake [Indiana] that was there for years and years and years.

PORTER: Oh, Winona Lake?

DRURY: Yeah, Winona Lake. That really was...I guess it was probably one of the biggest ones around the country, had all of the big names there and everything, they...they gave the conference ground to Grace College, which is right there, so it just dwindled and dwindled and dwindled. The... the conferences, and you can name them, perhaps, on two hands, you know, Word of Life, and Sandy Cove Camp, which you were doing a great job. Ruth, thanks again. Thanks a billion for your time.

PORTER: Well, thank you Bill for coming. I...I just have gotten these letters, and I just didn’t know what to do. I just...[laughs] like, I didn’t think I could remember very much, and I didn’t know how to answer them, and so forth, and so maybe this will take care of it.

DRURY: Well, it’s my understanding that this information will be kept for years to come out at the Billy Graham [Center] Archives, with the Billy Graham Center on Evangelism out in Wheaton, Illinois.

PORTER: That’s fine. Thank you, Bill.


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