As Black History Month comes to an end, we remember the legacy of two significant people in Billy Graham’s Crusade ministry – Howard Jones and Ethel Waters. These two notable individuals helped shape history and contributed to thousands hearing and responding to the Good News of Jesus Christ.
In 1957, the first black associate evangelist joined the team when Howard Jones was asked by Billy Graham to help integrate his New York City Crusade at Madison Square Garden.
Following the New York City Crusade, Jones traveled the world with Billy Graham and led the charge for Crusades in several African countries and beyond. He authored and co-authored five books during his life, including a book he co-authored with Edward Gilbreath, Gospel Trailblazer: An African-American Preacher’s Historic Journey Across Racial Lines, in which he writes about his efforts crossing racial barriers.
Best known for his voice, Jones served as the principal speaker on air for 35 years with BGEA’s Hour of Freedom, becoming the first African American to be inducted into the National Religious Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1995.
Billy Graham sent the following statement to Jones’ family after hearing news of his passing in 2010 at the age of 89: “Howard Jones was one of my best friends. He did more for race relations among evangelicals than any other person of his generation. Howard was a deeply spiritual person, and I loved him in Christ.”
At the 1957 New York City’s Madison Square Garden Crusade, Billy Graham met Broadway star, singer, and actress – Ethel Waters. This was the very same Crusade that Billy Graham had requested the help of Howard Jones to integrate the audience.
Waters was the first African-American to receive equal billing on Broadway and the second black woman to be nominated for an Academy Award. Her most significant accomplishment came in her later years, sharing her belief in Jesus Christ through music.
Ethel was a featured soloist at Billy Graham Crusades for nearly 20 years, most known for her rendition of “His Eye is on the Sparrow”.
Billy Graham reflected on Waters, “Ethel Waters was one of the most unforgettable characters I ever knew. She was a superstar not only on stage and screen, but in her personal religious faith.”
To find out more about Billy Graham’s Crusade Team, visit the Billy Graham Library.