Billy & Ruth Graham – A Love Story for the Ages

August 13, 2021

Ruth and Billy walking to church in Illinois, 1930s

Billy Graham and Ruth Bell Graham had a love story that spanned more than six decades. We are taking a look back at how they met – from each of their perspectives – in honor of what would have been their 78th Anniversary.

Ruth – First Impression

“All I saw was a blur. I was on the steps of East Blanchard when a new student passed me. I was going up. He was going down.

He’s surely in a hurry, I thought to myself, and went on.

Sunday mornings we had a prayer meeting in Williston lobby before dividing up and going out on gospel team assignments. That morning I heard a new voice pray: strong, clear, urgent.

There is a man who knows to Whom he is speaking, I thought.

I had heard about this new transfer student, who had come from a Bible college in Florida. They said he was a gifted preacher—a young man on whose shoulder God’s hand seemed to rest.

Shortly after that, a friend, Johnny Streater, introduced us. Not long after, Bill asked me for our first date—a Sunday-afternoon presentation of The Messiah.

Now one does not get to know a person by siting and listening to a group singing, however inspiring the music. Yet that night I knew he was the one. Someone has said, ‘Feminine instinct is a great time-saver: it enables a woman to jump at conclusions without bothering with the facts.’ So I laid it before the Lord and left it there.”

from It’s My Turn by Ruth Bell Graham

Ruth and Billy at Wheaton College 50th Reunion, 1993

Billy – Ruth

“In more ways than one, [Ruth] was one of the belles of Wheaton campus. I learned this during my first term from a fellow I met at the Lane home, Johnny Streater… He told me about a girl in the junior class – one of the most beautiful and dedicated Christian girls he ever met. Sounded like my type, I paid attention.

One day we were hanging around in our sweaty work clothes in front of Williston Hall, the girls’ dorm, getting ready to haul some furniture for a lady in Glen Ellyn, the next town over when Johnny let out a whoop. ‘Billy, here’s the girl I was telling you about,’ he said. ‘It’s Ruth Bell.’

I straightened up, and there she was. Standing there, looking right at me, was a slender, hazel-eyed movie starlet! I said something polite, but I was flustered and embarrassed. It took me a month to muster the courage to ask her out for a date.

The Christmas holidays were fast approaching, and the combined glee clubs were presenting Handel’s Messiah. One day in the library in Blanchard Hall, I saw Ruth studying at one of the long tables. Johnny Streater and Howard Van Buren urged me to make a pitch to her right there… Undaunted, I sauntered nonchalantly across to Ruth and scribbled my proposal for a date to the concert. To my surprise and delight, she agreed to go…

Ruth went back to her room (she told me later), got on her knees, and told the Lord that if she could spend the rest of her life serving Him with me, she would consider it the greatest privilege imaginable…

Two things I felt sure of: first, that Ruth was bound to get married someday; and second, that I was the man she would marry. Beyond that, I did not try to pressure her or persuade her—that is to say, not overly much. I let God do my courting for me.”

from Just As I Am by Billy Graham

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