September 30, 1951 marks the first time Billy Graham appeared on television with the “Hour of Decision” program. Experts called the 50’s the “golden age” of television. Televisions had created an enormous impact on society and reshaped how people spent their leisurely time.
In 1940, 22 year old Billy Graham marveled at seeing a television set for the first time. While on a preaching trip to York, PA, Mr. Graham and his classmate drove up to New York and spent a day at the World’s Fair exploring futuristic technology and gadgets. Mr. Graham recalls in his autobiography, “It was the first time I ever saw television. They had a camera there, and as you walked by, you could see yourself on a screen. We never thought it would amount to anything, though. It seemed too incredible!”
Billy Graham was witnessing history. This new technology debuted to the American public at the 1939–1940 World’s Fair would soon become the focal point of households throughout the country.
Little did Billy Graham know, in 1940, that he would be appearing on television just over a decade later. His “Hour of Decision” radio program was doing so well, they decided to televise it. In September 1951, the “Hour of Decision” television broadcasts began airing over the ABC network. Billy Graham went on to harness the power of TV to share the Gospel all over the world. He was widely recognized as a media pioneer who understood the power of technologies such as radio, TV, cinema and the internet. From the beginning of Mr. Graham’s ministry, his mission was to use any means possible to share the Good News of Jesus. His use of technology for evangelism was revolutionary.
In Just As I Am Mr. Graham wrote:
“Radio, books, and films have all had an important part in extending our ministry, but by far the most significant in the long term has been television. More than one critic has pointed out the limitations and pitfalls of television. No doubt television also has been used to promote lifestyles and points of view that are opposed to what the Bible teaches.
All of that, however, does not rule out television as an incredibly powerful vehicle for shaping character and influencing people for good or for evil. Like most technologies, television in itself is morally neutral; it is what we do with it, or fail to do with it, that makes the difference.”
Today the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association continues to carry on Billy Graham’s legacy of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ through every effective means available. Learn more about Mr. Graham’s media ministry at the Billy Graham Library. Plan your visit.