The Archive Collection

From the Archives: The Gaithers

November 26, 2021

Billy Graham and Bill Gaither at the 2001 Louisville Crusade.

It was 1976. Cliff Barrows invited Bill and Gloria Gaither to perform at one of Billy Graham’s crusades in Toronto. Close to 70,000 people were expected to be in attendance. Bill and Gloria Gaither were a young married couple at the time, and had never met Billy Graham.

From the book, Billy Graham & Me, Bill Gaither describes his excitement about first meeting Mr. Graham.

“We arrived the night before and met some of the staff. I said, ‘Where is Mr. Graham?’ I had seen him on television programs like Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show in the 1960s and really admired him for his ability to articulate his message to a secular audience.”

The next day, Gaither spotted a Ford or Plymouth sedan approaching. Billy Graham emerged.

“It was the first time I had ever seen him in person. He looked extremely tall and imposing – it was like Moses had arrived! He seemed like such an untouchable human being.  He came over to Gloria and me and was so gracious and kind. He said, ‘Thank you so much for doing this.’ We were moved that he cared that much,” Gaither shared.

The Gaithers sung at more than 20 Billy Graham Crusades and developed a special friendship. Bill Gaither recalls, “Over the years, we got to know him personally as well. He [was] one of the most humble down-to-earth people I have ever been around.” Bill and Gloria would often vacation in Asheville, North Carolina, not far from Mr. Graham’s home. During these visits, they praised God for the things they had seen while ministering at the Crusades.

In 2011, more than 140 of gospel music’s most beloved artists came together to help re-create the old-fashioned tent revivals from 1949.

So on May 3, 2011, Bill and Gloria Gaither, along with the “Homecoming” ensemble, wanted to replicate those early tent revival meetings in Los Angeles where Billy Graham gained worldwide recognition. This outdoor “Homecoming” Tent Revival took place in a huge open-air tent on the grounds of the Billy Graham Library. The Library transformed back in time to look like 1949 with sawdust floors, a simple canvas canopy overhead, and songs that showcased the spirit of the old-fashioned tent revivals.

A DVD “Gaither Gospel Series, Bill and Gloria Gaither present Tent Revival Homecoming” filmed at the Billy Graham Library.

Hosted by Bill and Gloria Gaither, the DVD they created featured more than 140 of gospel music’s most beloved artists. BGEA’s own, George Beverly Shea, Cliff Barrows and Franklin Graham, shared praiseworthy moments in the history of the ministry. There are many other well-known artists included, as well: The Crabb Family, Michael English, David Phelps, Guy Penrod, Mark Lowry, the Gatlin Brothers, Buddy Greene, Larnelle Harris, Michael W. Smith, CeCe Winans, Andrae’ Crouch, Avalon and others. All the artists of the Billy Graham Crusades over the years came together to sing the music and share incredible stories during the filming of “Tent Revival Homecoming.”

An “All Access” security and identification badge worn by staff and volunteers at the Gaither Homecoming Tent Revival held May 3, 2011, on the Library grounds.

Gloria Gaither shared in an interview with BGEA why they chose to film Gaither Homecoming Tent Revival at the Billy Graham Library. “We wanted to be here, in this historical setting. The Billy Graham Library piece of the puzzle is the sense of preserving the heritage that we have,” she explained. “The Billy Graham Library is, of course, an experience–an experience of the eras and the places and times and themes that Billy Graham preached and taught.”

Ruth Graham with Bill and Gloria Gaither at The Cove, 2001.

Having a friendship with the Graham’s is an experience the Gaithers will never forget. Bill Gaither shared, “One of the greatest things that can happen to a person who has a hero is later to meet that man, become close to him, and find out he is exactly as you thought he was, and even more. And that has been my experience with Billy Graham. This is a great man. This is what I call a Moses.”

Featured within the walls of the Billy Graham Library are stories of the legacy of Billy Graham and his old tent revivals. Scripture is inscribed on the walls and beams of the Library’s lobby, compelling videos share Billy Graham preaching the Gospel message, and memorabilia from the saw dust floor tent revivals fill the cases at the Billy Graham Library.

Come and experience familiar sights of Billy Graham’s Crusades at the Billy Graham Library. The Journey of Faith tour tells the story of a dairy farmer who came to be the “Pastor to Presidents.” Plan your visit today.



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