A Library, a Note & a Christmas Concert: Billy & Ruth Graham’s First Date

By   •   December 2, 2015

Ruth and Billy Graham by Christmas tree

Billy Graham met Ruth Bell in the early 1940s while they were attending Wheaton College in Illinois. In his autobiography, Just As I Am, Mr. Graham tells the story of his first date with his future wife.

The Christmas holidays were fast approaching, and the combined glee clubs were presenting Handel’s Messiah. One day in the library in Blanchard Hall, I saw Ruth studying at one of the long tables.

Ruth and Billy Graham on wedding day
Ruth and Billy Graham on their wedding day, August 13, 1943, in Montreat, North Carolina.

Johnny Streater and Howard Van Buren urged me to make my pitch to her right there. The expression of the librarian at the desk turned to a frown as we whispered among ourselves. Undaunted, I sauntered nonchalantly across to Ruth and scribbled my proposal for a date to the concert. To my surprise and delight, she agreed to go.

That Sunday afternoon was cold and snowy. With Ruth Bell sitting beside me in Pierce Chapel, I did not pay much attention to the music.

Afterward we walked over to the Lane house for a cup of tea, and we had a chance to talk. I just could not believe that anyone could be so spiritual and so beautiful at one and the same time.

Ruth went back to her room (she told me later), got on her knees, and told the Lord that if she could spend the rest of her life serving Him with me, she would consider it the greatest privilege imaginable. So why did she make it so hard for me to get her to say yes out loud?

The rest of the story of Billy and Ruth Bell Graham’s courtship can be found in Just As I Am. The two were married on August 13, 1943, and had five children together. Mrs. Graham went to be with the Lord on June 14, 2007, after more than 60 years of marriage. Mr. Graham has said he misses her terribly and looks forward to seeing her in heaven.