On This Date—President Nixon attends 1970 Knoxville Crusade
Billy Graham was known to many as the ‘pastor to the presidents.’ His friendship with Richard Nixon began before his time in office and lasted many years beyond. This anecdote about the president is one that Billy shared in his autobiography Just As I Am.
Then, on May 28, 1970, [Nixon] came as President to give a word of greeting at our Crusade in Neyland Stadium at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
When the offering plate was passed that night, President Nixon found himself with an empty wallet. With some sleight of hand, I managed to slip him all the bills in my pocket. It was quite a feat—no one in the vast stadium seemed to notice it. I myself forgot about it until, months later, I received a “Dear Billy” letter from the White House, dated October 2.
“A number of presidents have looked to you for spiritual sustenance over the years,” he wrote, “but I suspect I was the first to hit you for a loan. . . . I deeply appreciated the emergency financing which you quickly arranged for me that evening in Knoxville. I only wish that all the money problems that confront me could be handled that efficiently.
“While deficit financing can be useful in a pinch, the time always comes when the deficit must be funded. In keeping with my concern for fiscal responsibility, I am hereby repaying your loan of May 28.”
The letter and check from President Nixon are on display in The Journey of Faith tour inside the Billy Graham Library.