The world already knows that Dr. Graham was converted during a meeting conducted by Dr. Mordecai Ham in Charlotte, N.C., in 1934, but some people do not know that a group of laymen, including W.F. Graham, Billy’s father, and T.W. Wilson, Sr., father of Graham’s associate evangelist, Grady, promoted the campaign.
Billy Graham has told the story of his conversion in numerous publications. Dr. Ham’s version, as confirmed by Billy’s father and by Grady Wilson, adds a few interesting details.
Dr. Ham relates: “Two young high school boys attended our meeting. They thought that everything I said was directed their way; so they decided to take seats in the choir, where I couldn’t point my finger at them. They didn’t pretend to be singers, but they wanted to be behind me.”
Grady Wilson agreed, “Neither of us could sing.”
Dr. Ham continues, “One night a man spoke to them during the invitation and said, ‘Come on; let’s go up front.’ Billy and Grady both went to the altar. Billy was saved, and Grady dedicated his life to Christian service.”
In telling of his experience later, Billy recalls how, on first attending the services of our meeting, he was impressed with the crowd. He had never seen such a crowd, nor such a big preacher … and fighter … and soon had all he wanted. Billy didn’t like being told that he was lost and going to hell.
He got out as soon as he could and said, “I am through,” but he was miserable all night and all the next day and admits, “I couldn’t get there soon enough the next night!”
In Billy Graham’s thinking, at that time, his hero was Babe Ruth. So far as he was concerned, nobody ever attended revivals like ours except a lot of old, effeminate men and crazy women and children. Our meeting changed his hero from Babe Ruth to Jesus Christ.
I recall I told Billy and Grady, after they came forward, to sit in the preachers’ section. Billy sat there for two months. The Lord seemed to be directing in everything, and what took place during the meeting didn’t seem to have an earthly explanation!