Pastor to Presidents: Billy Graham and John F. Kennedy

September 30, 2020

President Kennedy

Billy Graham met President John F. Kennedy for a game of golf in Palm Beach, Florida ten days before Kennedy was inaugurated in January of 1961. Billy was so nervous at the first tee, he didn’t hit the ball far and ended up with a double bogey. However, as the game progressed, he was able to relax a bit and made a long putt on the final hole. After they left the golf course to head to another event, Kennedy asked Billy if he believed in the Second Coming of Christ. Billy explained that he did believe in it and talked about what the Bible says. The newly-elected president, who was already thinking of the heavy reins he was taking on with the conflict in Vietnam, was very interested in hearing more about the world peace Christ will bring when he returns.

Billy Graham rides with President-elect Kennedy in Palm Beach, Florida

President Kennedy attended all three of the National Prayer Breakfasts that were held during his three years in Washington. Billy later discovered that President Kennedy “had reportedly said [Billy] was the only Protestant clergyman with whom he felt comfortable.”

Billy Graham and President Kennedy at the National Prayer Breakfast, 1963

The last time Billy was with Kennedy was at the Prayer Breakfast in 1963. Billy was sick with the flu, and when the president asked Billy to come back to the White House after the breakfast to talk with him for a minute, Billy declined, indicating he didn’t want to get Kennedy sick. The president accepted Billy’s excuse, but as Billy remembers in his autobiography, “His hesitation at the car door, and his request, haunt me still. What was on his mind? Should I have gone with him? It was an irrecoverable moment.”

The Billy Graham Library is featuring an exhibit Pastor to Presidents highlighting Billy Graham’s friendships with our nation’s Executive Office. The exhibit runs through December 31, 2020. For more information on the exhibit, visit


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