Tullian Tchividjian|9:02 am CT

Happy Birthday Daddy Bill

It was May 2, 1996 and I was sitting in the U.S. Capitol rotunda with my family. We were eagerly anticipating the ceremony that was getting ready to begin. I had been to Washington DC once before, back in 1985, when I was just 13 years old. This trip was different though. We were there because my grandparents were being honored on this day with the Congressional Gold Medal—the highest honor the Congress of the United States can bestow on a citizen. In fact, Senator Bob Dole, during a speech at the ceremony, said, “When the idea of awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to Billy and Ruth Graham was first raised, it received something rare in this building—unanimous approval.” Everybody laughed. At the time, it was only the 114th medal awarded, with George Washington being the first recipient.

There were hundreds who came that day to honor my grandparents, ranging from then Vice President Al Gore to Kathy Lee Gifford. Newt Gingrich, Senator Dole, and Vice President Gore publicly honored my grandparents by sharing how much my grandparents meant to each of them personally.

After the medal was presented, my granddad got up to speak. Before he could say a word, the crowd stood and applauded for a solid three minutes. Tears began streaming down my face. I was so proud of him and so thankful that God had given me such a tremendous heritage—one I had neither asked for nor deserved. Here was a man who was being publicly honored for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to more people than anyone in history; a man who was being recognized for his love for God and love for others—and I had the privilege of calling him “Daddy Bill.” As we all stood and clapped, I prayed: “Lord, no matter what it is that you call me to do, I want to do it with the God-centered focus, passion, and humility that have characterized the life and ministry of my grandfather.”

It was no surprise that he presented the Gospel that day. He spoke boldly of sin, the cross, and the great need for repentance. He spoke about the brevity of life and the fleeting pleasures of this world. He looked into the eyes of the many high ranking political leaders who were there that day and challenged them to contemplate death and the life after. He was so bold, so unashamed of the Gospel—yet so winsome. To this day, I’m not sure I have ever heard the truth spoken in love more effectively. I had heard him preach a thousand times, but this time was particularly moving. I’ll never forget that day.

Today “Daddy Bill” turns 94.

Born November 7, 1918 on a dairy farm outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, “Daddy Bill” (who lived the majority of his life on the world stage) rarely leaves home now. His mind is still sharp but his body is weak and frail. He says that getting old has been hard. His wife of over 60 years (my grandmother “TaiTai”) died 5 1/2 years ago. Most of his friends have died. He still sees a world in dire need but is now relegated to the sidelines–cheering his brothers and sisters on, but wishing he could still be in the game. He told me recently that he thinks he’ll live another year or two. I hope it’s longer.

Not long ago, I wrote a few things down that I’ve always admired about my granddad. Since it’s his birthday, I thought I’d share them with you.

1. His Humility: Daddy Bill has always been keenly aware that God is God and he is not. He’s always been conscious of his smallness and God’s bigness, his imperfection and God’s perfection. I was telling someone the other day that it wasn’t until I got older that I began to realize my grandfather was a pretty important person. This is mainly due to the fact that he never, ever, projected himself to be any more or less important than anyone else. I have never seen him think more highly of himself than he ought.

2. His love for the Gospel: Daddy Bill has always had a deep sense of his own sin which has led him to a deep love for his Savior. He’s always exemplified the sweet reality that you can never know Christ as a Great Savior until you first know yourself to be a great sinner. God’s amazing grace still amazes him—and that amazes me!

3. His Faithfulness: Although he had the opportunity to do many things (have his own TV show, become President of various colleges and seminaries, star in movies, and yes, even run for President of the United states) he never wavered concerning God’s call on his life to be an Evangelist. He knows he’s not a scholar or a theologian and he’s never tried to be. He’s always remained true to God’s calling on his life. And he has fulfilled that calling without ever being guilty of any sexual, financial, or other moral scandal.

4. I have never seen him show favoritism: I have been with Daddy Bill in numerous places at numerous times with numerous people and I have never, ever seen him show favoritism. He treats all people the same, whether they’re rich or poor, weak or powerful, socially significant or socially insignificant. Because of his belief that all people are made in God’s image, he has rightfully concluded that there are no little people.

5. His humanness: Daddy Bill is normal! He gets mad; he gets sad; he’s fun to be around. His favorite restaurant is Morrison’s Cafeteria. His favorite movie is Crocodile Dundee. His favorite drink is orange juice and he loves catfish. He’s just another man with all of the limitations and idiosyncrasies that the rest of us have—and I love him for it!

Daddy Bill, you have been one of my closest friends and most reliable counselors all my life. I want to be just like you when I grow up.

Happy Birthday! I love you.


  1. Tullian,

    On May 2, 1996, I was celebrating my birthday during my senior year of high school. Mr. Graham was a huge influence on my parents and I have always thoroughly admired his work. Thank You, for sharing this piece. I will forward it to my parents as I am sure they will enjoy what you have to say here.

    We’ll see you here in Denver on Thursday.

    Steven S. Press

  2. This brought tears of gratitude and admiration to my eyes today. Thank you for reminding me that there are still real men of God out there. God bless you and your family, and Daddy Bill.

  3. Happy Birthday Billy! I love you too! You have and will always have a special place in my heart. We know Jeremiah preached for 42 years and the whole of the book can be summed up in 4 words “No one would listen”… But I know, we all know (Jhn 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…) That wasn’t God’s plan for you obviously. God Drew many through your ministry that can be certain and if I’m allowed to say this (now) well done Faithful and Loyal Servant. Happy birthday brother Billy.

  4. How touching and inspiring! May there be more “Daddy Bill” who would love God and seek to honor Him and live a life of legacy inspiring not just his family but all the people around him.

  5. Wow! What a beautiful tribute to your Grandaddy. I especially love your words about his humility since so many in my generation have put him on such a high pedestal. I can think of no one alive today among Christ’s followers who could be more tempted to think highly of himself. To read those words of his humility is so refreshing and challenging. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about your granfather. It was beautifully written. I have respected Dr. Graham for many years and it is because of him that I know the Lord. It was Nov. of 1975 that I attended a crusade at the Pontiac SiverDome and left a changed person because as you said above, “I’m not sure I have ever heard the truth spoken in love more effectively.”
    Happy Birthday Dr. Graham.

  7. [...] Tullian wishes his grandfather (Billy Graham) a happy birthday with this moving tribute: Not long ago, I wrote a few things down that I’ve always admired about my granddad. Since it’s his birthday, I thought I’d share them with you. [...]

  8. Pastor
    Nice to see the Great Evangelist, hope that he is comfortable in his last days. He is always an inspiration to me. I remember the televised crusades in my youth we had to wait for. And I always had a secret wish to be like him, to affect so many people.
    your ministry has been a great help toward that end.

  9. Thankyou, we enjoyed reading this and how you so honour your grandfather/his faith and life. Love the photos too… you and your family are such a blessing to him as he is to all of you and so many around the world.

  10. “Peace With God” was the first Christian book I ever purchased when I was around 19 or so. Billy used to write a column which appeared in our newspaper and I would read them (I think everyday) and cut them out and save them in a scrapbook. I watched his TV appearances everytime. I was always drawn to listen to him because I knew that God spoke through him. There was definately something different about him. I knew I could trust him. I even had the chance to participate in his St Louis crusade a few years ago as a counselor. That was the icing on the cake for me. To be that near to him physically after following him for so many years. I thank God for Billy Graham. I am so thankful for his voice that kept me close to God all these years. I look forward to meeting him in heaven someday. God bless you too, Tullian. You are making your grandad proud as you preach others toward Christ as your life’s work. You have very big shoes to fill! I thank God for you, your messages online, your blog, and your books that I have been reading. What a blessed family!

  11. Dr. Billy Graham’s legacy will continue to inspire not just the American people but also the many nations he’d been for his many crusades, one of which is my own country, our beloved Philippines. I believe it is because of his greatly inspiring life that Franklin Graham has followed the same path of service, and our people and churches in the Philippines were blessed and privileged too when Franklin Graham initiated an evangelistic crusade here.

    Indeed, may there be more Dr. Billy Grahams in our generation who would boldly yet lovingly preach the Gospel to all nations, so passionate for Christ and burning with compassion for people!

  12. Tullian,
    My wife and I watched one of the Billy Grahams Crusades on TV last night. I took the picture you gave us here magnified it and said Kim you see him (on TV) she said yes, she was laying on the bed watching and I said you understand what he say she say little and I said come here I want to show you something and while Billy was preaching I said look here and I showed her you and Billy big and up close and then I said look here and I pointed to the TV and I said as I pointed back to the picture That’s him and I said That’s Tullians grandfather and he’s 94 today and she looks back at the TV and in her broken English says long time ago I laughed because it made me feel well you know. Though she doesn’t understand all she likes listening to you maybe well see you over the Holidays, were not far.

  13. I remember when Dr. Billy was in San Diego crusade, my son went to hear the music group Third Day. I asked how he liked the crusade and all he said is the Holy Ghost is on that man he comes to the podium preaches the gospel and hundreds come forward. What a tribute!

  14. [...] Happy Birthday Billy Graham – A moving tribute from Billy’s grandson. [...]

  15. Congratulations! I can’t think of anyone I admire more. I was so lucky to see him preach at a crusade right before he retired in Charlotte North Carolina, at Panther stadium in the pouring rain! and thousands of people went forward to give their lives to Christ! I was amazed and profoundly grateful that God has given the Church this man for now 94 years! Praise God!

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