Civil rights were very much in the forefront in America during the 1960s and early 1970s. As the issue unfolded, I sometimes found myself under fire from both sides, extreme conservatives castigating me for doing too much and extreme liberals blaming me for not doing enough. In reality, both groups tended to stand aloof from our evangelistic Crusades, but those people who actively supported us understood very well our commitment to doing what we could through our evangelism to end the blight of racism.
Early on, Dr. King and I spoke about his method of using non-violent demonstrations to bring an end to racial segregation. He urged me to keep doing what I was doing – preaching the Gospel to integrated audiences and supporting his goals by example – and not join him in the streets. “You stay in the stadiums, Billy,” he said, “because you will have far more impact on the white establishment there than you would if you marched in the streets. Besides that, you have a constituency that will listen to you, especially among the white people, who may not listen so much to me. But if a leader gets too far out in front of his people, they will lose sight of him and not follow him any longer.” I followed his advice.
In his autobiography, Billy Graham recounts the moments after hearing of Dr. Martin Luther King’s death in 1968: “Not only was I losing a friend through a vicious and senseless killing, but America was losing a social leader and a prophet, and I felt his death would be one of the greatest tragedies in our history.”
As we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we are taking a look back at the friendship between Billy Graham and King through the Taking Down the Ropes of Segregation, a video from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Watch this 15-minute documentary on the friendship and the mission shared by Billy Graham and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.