Emotions ran bittersweet as the world awoke on Feb. 21 to learn of the passing of the iconic evangelist Billy Graham. It’s unknown how many lives were touched and changed by the Southern Baptist minister whose career began in the 1940s. But, it is well-documented the relationship between Reverend Graham and the legendary Johnny Cash and the influence they had on each other.
Although early in his career, the Man in Black led a life filled with drug and alcohol abuse. Eventually, his commitment to his faith was strong and grew even stronger with the help of his wife, June Carter Cash, and Reverend Graham. According to Billy Graham’s website, upon learning of Johnny’s newfound profession of faith, he invited the talented singer-songwriter to take part in his Crusades. Johnny’s nephew, Mike Garrett, says, “I remember Uncle Johnny saying to me that he had started going to Billy Graham Crusades—that he would sing and share his testimony. He made that a top priority—a higher priority than concert tours.”
Mike also remembers that his uncle even gave his testimony at a Crusade in 1989. Johnny said, “My personal life—my personal problems—has been widely publicized. There have been things said about me that made people ask, ‘Is Johnny Cash really a Christian?’ I take great comfort in the words of the Apostle Paul, who said: ‘What I will do I do not practice, but what I hate I do. It is no longer I that do it, but the sin that dwells within me. But who will deliver me from this body of death? It is Jesus Christ, our Lord.’”
But he also spoke openly about his demons — the drug abuse that plagued him — encouraging others to find a different path.
But the relationship wasn’t just about Johnny participating in Billy’s memorable Crusades. Reverend Graham also visited Johnny’s “The Johnny Cash Show” to deliver his message of salvation. He also lent his voice to the song “The Preacher Said Jesus Said” from Johnny’s “Man In Black” album and even appeared on “The Johnny Cash Show” to perform it live.
June also maintained a strong relationship with Billy as well. In fact, following Johnny’s death in 2003, the Reverend said, “Ruth and I took a number of personal vacations with them at their home in Jamaica and in other places. They both were like a brother and sister to Ruth and me. We loved them. … I look forward to seeing Johnny and June in heaven one day.”
And, as the hymn says, “When we all get to heaven what a day of rejoicing that will be.”
The Reverend Dr. Billy Graham passed away on Feb. 21 in North Carolina at the age of 99. He is survived by five children, who have all chosen careers in the ministry. Billy’s wife, Ruth, passed away in 2007.