Crusade City Spotlight: Chicago

“Chicago! The heart of America’s heartland. The breadbasket of the continent. The cultural apex of the Midwest. Roistering, gun-toting, scandal-rocked, ye the peaceful home of some of the world’s greatest educational and scientific institutions. A city whose influence has gone everywhere, whose enterprise has changed the face of America. A city of churches, of art, of lovely people, of bright lights, of the shimmering waters of an inland sea. A city of incredible industry – and dreary slums. A city of utter fascination, completely and wholly American. A melting pot of every race and tongue, creased by new, swift expressways, spreading far into the Illinois prairie. A kicking horse saddled with an unhappy reputation.” ~Decision Magazine, February 1962

Photo of Chicago Skyline from Flickr user John Picken.

Billy Graham is no stranger to the city of Chicago. He graduated from Wheaton College, and became pastor of the Village Church in Western Springs, Ill. He also took over the “Songs in the Night” radio program on Chicago’s WCFL in 1943. It was there that God began to orchestrate the beginnings of the Billy Graham Crusade Team. Mr. Graham recalled hearing George Beverly Shea’s radio singing and enlisted him to help with the WCFL broadcast, and that was the beginning of a long association between Mr. Graham and Mr. Shea.

The team returned to Chicago for two landmark Crusades, once in 1962 and again in 1971. Travel with us to the “Windy City,” as we share more about these monumental events.

May 30-June 17, 1962

In 1962, on the heels of successful evangelistic Crusades in New York and Philadelphia, Billy Graham returned to Chicago for the Greater Chicago Crusade.

Here’s a look at the 1962 Chicago Crusade, by the numbers:

  • 100,000 – seats at Soldier Field, where the closing ceremony was held on Sunday, June 17, 1962.
  • 40,000 – seats at McCormick Place, the main location of the Crusade
  • 19 – number of days the Gospel was proclaimed
  • 2,000 – voices in the Crusade Choir
  • 8,000 – people on visitation teams
  • 1,000,000 – number of homes visited in a 100-mile radius
  • 7,600 – prayer groups who met regularly throughout the city leading up to the Crusade
  • 15,500 – trained counselors, 11,500 in Chicago and 4,000 in the outlying areas
  • 704,900 – attended throughout the Crusade
  • 16,000 – commitments to Christ

One of the unexpected developments of the Greater Chicago Crusade in 1962 was the nationwide interest, with people across the country congregating for the event in Chicago. Excursion trips were planned, bringing delegations from other cities such as Atlanta; Cleveland; Denver; Detroit; New York; St. Louis; Washington, D.C.; and Toronto.

June 3-13, 1971

A miracle took place in Chicago when Billy Graham returned to McCormick Place in 1971. This miracle came in the form a large group of “Jesus People” who stood up to a persistent collection of trouble-makers whose goal it was to disrupt the Crusade. When Billy Graham delivered his first message, they made their attempt to cause a disturbance during the time of invitation. But, sitting nearby were the “Jesus People” – an organized group of “street Christians” – who stood up and lovingly quieted the dissenters. And, the Crusade went on for 10 days, with nearly 12,000 making a decision for Christ.

Speaking of Chicago, George Beverly Shea spent the early part of his career there, and met Billy Graham. You can learn more at our special George Beverly Shea exhibit at The Billy Graham Library, on display now through the end of March.


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  1. Terry Putty says:

    Thank you for helping me see the light. I was one of the 16,000 saved during the 1962 Chicago crusade at Mc Cormick Place. For a long time, I thought it was 1961 but it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I accepted Christ as my Savior at the Crusade and that was the turning point of my life. I just watched the “MY Hope America” program on TV and was deeply moved by Mr Graham’s ability at 95 to reach into our hearts with the truth.

  2. David Nefzger says:

    My Lyons Township High School friend, David A. Olson, took me to see Billy Graham at McCormick Place in 1962. The seeds planted that night helped lead me back to faith. Thanks, Dave! What an impact for good Dr. Graham has had on our country and our world.

  3. Douglas Bahl says:

    I went to the 1971 Crusades, Every night with My Parents. My Brother and Sister were in the Choir, the 4 nights that They went. I was 13 and I will Never forget the thousands of people. Hearing Mr Shea sing. And Especially Mr Graham’s Sermons! How Great Thou Art and Just As I Am, are Still 2 of My Favorite Hymns!

  4. Marvin Collins says:

    I was one of the 2000 choir greatest memories of my life went on to be Youth Dir. at our church Great Time in My Life GOD BLESS ALL

  5. Loretta Hendricks says:

    I was saved at the Billy Graham Crusade at McCormick Place in Chicago in 1971. I’ve been following and praying for Mr Graham, his family and the ministries. So truly grateful for this Blessing. Praying God will always give His wisdom and Blessing to all! Thankyou ?

  6. Sue Heifner says:

    I grew up in the Village Church and my parents attended Wheaton with Billy and Ruth. George Shea lived in Western Springs with his family and I remember them often at church. My baby book even lists a gift from Ruth and Billy. Our family had many ties to Billy and Ruth and they were often mentioned. No one at that time ever imagined the path Billy would take.

  7. Deborah Castic says:

    I was at the McCormick place crusade and asked Jesus to be my Savior on June 13, 1971. I had been searching for meaning and purpose for my life. I looked at many faith systems and philosophies. Each night as he spoke Rev. Graham cleared up all my doubts, answered all my questions, and showed me God’s immence love. Others had prayed for me and witnessed to me, but it was like I had all the pieces to a puzzle and just couldn’t see the picture until this “good and faithful servant” lined them up for me. I heard the truth in his words. I felt the conviction of his heart. I saw God’s love shinning from his eyes. I was lost but now I’m found. Thank you.

  8. Wallace Alcorn says:

    Our children were born late into Graham’s long ministry, but I had told them of such as my first personal contact in 1947 at the Victory Christian Servicemen’s Center in the Loop and of my covering the 1957 New York crusade as national news editor for Christian Life magazine. When, back in the area to teach at Moody Bible Institute, we brought them to the 1971 McCormick Place crusade, I felt I was bringing them further into my life so they would understand me more fully.

  9. Sandee olding says:

    This crusade changed my life. I was an 11 year old girl, my father had been killed in a car accident. My uncle Paul and I watched on a black and white tv in elliston montana. I didn’t accept Christ until 1972. But I spent every spare minute in st Peter’s Episcopal church in Helena. I didn’t understand at the time how much I needed him, but now I can’t imagine how I survived without him.

  10. Glennjones says:

    The more i hear the closer i get to the Holy spirit or the closer he gets to me .
    Thanks an GOOD BLESS

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