ELON, N.C. – On Wednesday, November 7, 1951, Billy Graham took his gospel message to the campus Elon University, back then Elon College, during his month-long religious campaign in Greensboro.
According to an article by the former student-run newspaper ‘Maroon and Gold,’ Graham’s visit came in time for the college’s Religious Emphasis Week program, a regular activity when the College was religiously affiliated.
“In 1951 Billy Graham spoke to Elon University students right behind us here at this stage,” Associate Professor of Political Science Jason Husser says, pointing to the stage in Whitley Auditorium. “He was in his early 30s at the time, and that was part of a career that really shaped all of American history after that,” Husser adds.
Husser, who is also director of the University’s public opinion survey Elon Poll, says Graham is one of the most important figures of North Carolina.
“If you look at… North Carolina figures and you think ‘Who had the biggest cultural impact outside of the state?’ You’d point to Billy Graham, you’d point to Andy Griffith, you point to Maya Angelou,” Husser said.
And he’s got proof.
In April 2014, the Elon Poll conducted a survey researching the ‘Most Admired North Carolinians,’ where Billy Graham ranked top of the list.
From April 25-28, 2014, the Elon Poll asked 720 residents of North Carolina this open-ended question: “Think of a person, living or dead, who is from or associated with North Carolina. Of those people, who do you admire most?” Results indicate that evangelist Billy Graham is the most-admired person associated with the state.
Husser mentioned, “he’s one of these figures that shaped not only North Carolina, not just the country, but the entire world.”
Backing that statement is Associate Professor of Communications Anthony Hatcher, who is a former Religion reporter for the News & Observer and teaches a course on Religion and Media.
“You can go on YouTube and find footage of him in Korea and all sorts of countries where he’s on stage speaking, a translator translates, he’s speaking, a translator translates and he did this all over the world,” Hatcher says.
According to Hatcher, Billy Graham could also be considered a “pop culture” figure because of his relationship with various presidents, and his ability and desire to speak anywhere he could.
“He didn’t just speak in churches,” Hatcher says. “He spoke in Shea Stadium, he spoke in arenas, he spoke in Madison Square Garden and he spoke at Elon University in Whitley Auditorium.
“So, this was a man who would go wherever he could deliver the message,” the professor added.
And that Elon College did.
The 'Maroon and Gold' article states that the Graham service was scheduled for 11 a.m. that Wednesday in 1951 and 10:30 and 11:30 classes were canceled so students could attend.
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