This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Greater Los Angeles Billy Graham Crusade of 1949. The event, only initially planned to run for three weeks, ran for an amazing eight weeks. In our third part of the series, we are featuring cowboy and radio star Stuart Hamblen.
Part Three – Stuart Hamblen
Back in the 1930’s, Stuart Hamblen climbed to the top of the charts with his popular cowboy radio show. At the time, the Texan struggled with the pressure of his fame, which led him to drown his cares in alcohol. Under the influence of alcohol, Hamblen often committed many delinquencies that landed him in jail. Because he was so beloved by his radio audience, his fans would often pay to bail him out. However, his reckless ways began to affect his career and his life at home.
In 1949, just before his Los Angeles Tent Revival, Billy Graham was invited to speak at the Beverly Hills home of Henrietta Mears, where he met many well-known actors and actresses. One man, in particular, stood out to Graham with his six-foot-two cowboy build. The man was none other than the legendary Stuart Hamblen. The two got to talking, and Graham took an instant liking for him. Hamblen told him that he’d invite him to talk on his radio show and joked about how he would fill up the tent if he gave his endorsement.
Later, Graham received an invitation from Hamblen to come on his radio show. Graham was reluctant at first, but he decided that the risk was work taking if it meant impacting lives that had never heard the Gospel. Graham accepted the invitation and went to speak on his program. Hamblen surprised him when he told the listeners to “go visit Billy Graham’s tent… I’ll be there too!”
That night, Hamblen found himself at Billy Graham’s Greater Los Angeles Crusade. Graham recalled:
The first night Stuart attended… he became deeply convicted of his own sins and the need for Christ to save him. Not understanding what was going on in his own soul, he became angry and stalked out. For two or three nights he stayed away. Then he came back. Each time he showed up, he had the same reaction, getting so mad once he actually shook his fist at me as he walked out of the tent.
The Crusade was coming to its scheduled end date and the question of whether or not to extend the end date was being debated. The team was tired, and resources were running low. Billy Graham, Cliff Barrows, Grady Wilson, and George Beverly Shea prayed over and over again, asking God to confirm whether to extend the date or not.
The answer came to Graham through a phone call at 4:30 a.m. In Just As I Am, Graham recalled:
In a voice broken by tears, a man begged to see me right away. It was Stuart Hamblen… [Later] Stuart and his praying, godly, wife, Suzy, were at my door. We talked together and prayed, and the rugged cowboy gave his life to Christ in a childlike act of faith.
After receiving Christ, the first thing Hamblen did was call his dad who was a preacher in the state of Texas. Graham could hear the shouts of joy of Hamblen’s father through the telephone. Hamblen later went on to write many hymns, including one inspired by his friend John Wayne called “It Is No Secret [What God Can Do].”