Billy Graham brought his crusades to Phoenix area, sent aid after Yarnell fire
PHOENIX — Twice in his long life of preaching to worldwide audiences, the Rev. Billy Graham brought his revival meetings to the Phoenix area.
Graham, who passed away Wednesday at 99 after years of failing health, visited the Valley in 1964 and again in 1974 and sent his rapid response team to northern Arizona after the devastating Yarnell Hill Fire in 2013.
“He was the voice of the Gospel for generations,” Richard Casteel, senior pastor at Grace Chapel in Scottsdale, told KTAR 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News shortly after Graham died.
“He touched so many lives through his crusades.”
A page at Billy Graham Library website said that Graham came to the Arizona many times over the years, but the tours were different.
Graham traveled to 185 countries and territories from 1947 to 2005 for the crusade. The audiences grew from 6,000 for the inaugural sitting in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to over 150,000 at a 1992 gathering in Moscow, according to Wikipedia.
“He was passionate about sharing the Gospel,” Casteel said.
Graham shared his passion in Arizona the first time in 1964 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe. The April 22-24 dates drew 104,000. Original capacity of the venue, which opened in 1958, was about 30,000.
It would be 10 years before Graham returned to Arizona, and when he did, he stayed for eight days and brought a 4,000-member choir.
The 1974 tour stop once again was held at Sun Devil Stadium. By then, capacity at the stadium had expanded to about 50,000.
Beyond Graham’s public appearances, he reached untold millions through his pioneering use of prime-time telecasts, network radio, daily newspaper columns, evangelistic feature films and globe-girdling satellite TV hookups.
Graham’s message was not complex or unique, yet he preached with a conviction that won over audiences worldwide.
“The Bible says,” was his catch phrase. His unquestioning belief in Scripture turned the Gospel into a “rapier” in his hands, he said.
By his final crusade in 2005 in New York City, he had preached in person to more than 210 million people worldwide.
“He became, kind of, this icon of what it meant to be someone … who loved God,” Casteel said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.