In 1973, the first Templeton Prize was given to Mother Teresa. In 2023, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of this award. Over the next 52 weeks, we will highlight each of the 52 laureates (including years with dual winners) and reflect on their impact on the world. From humanitarians and saints to philosophers, theoretical physicists, and one king, the Templeton Prize has honored extraordinary people. Together, they have pushed the boundaries of our understanding of the deepest questions of the universe and humankind’s place and purpose within it, making this (we humbly think) the world’s most interesting prize.
Billy Graham was born on November 7, 1918, in Charlotte, NC a few days before the Armistice ended World War I. Graham would go on to be one of the most recognizable faces and voices for Christianity. He took his messages into the electronic world of radio and television, invigorating an entire generation with a simple and poignant message of salvation.
Graham grew up on a dairy farm in the middle of the Depression where he did manual labor and filled his downtime with reading. In 1934, Mordecai Ham, a traveling Evangelist, visited Charlotte to spread the word of Christ on numerous occasions. It was after these meetings that Graham, just before his 16th birthday, made a commitment to Christ.
He was ordained by the Peniel Baptist Church in Palatka, FL in 1939 and graduated from Wheaton College in Illinois in 1943. He then became a pastor at The Village Church of Western Springs. Graham’s popularity in America and Europe as an evangelist grew once he joined the Youth for Christ, a ministry created for youth and servicemen during World War II.
A citywide ‘Crusade’ – what Graham called his evangelistic campaigns – in Los Angeles in 1949 ascended Billy Graham’s name worldwide. Originally scheduled for three weeks, the meeting lasted eight weeks. Every night crowds filled a large tent that became known as the Canvas Cathedral. A 12-week Crusade in London in 1954 brought him international exposure, and a 16-week Crusade in New York in 1957 solidified his role as one of Christianity’s leading evangelists. He used his newfound popularity and influence to hold many Crusades in stadiums around the world.
In 1989, he utilized the power of radio and television to extend the reach of his Crusades via satellite to over 185 countries. He was awarded the Templeton Prize in 1982 for spreading his message of Christianity around the world. The ceremony was held in London’s Central Hall Westminster and presided over by HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Graham was accompanied by his wife. Mr. John M. Templeton and Sir Geoffrey Howe gave speeches about Graham’s work and dedication to progress in Christianity.
“When the judges consider each nominee, they ask what did this person do that was new and original. Secondly, was this a new thing of spiritual nature rather than merely humanitarian. Lastly, the judges ask did it result in a great increase in man’s love of God or understanding of God.
This afternoon, His Royal Highness Prince Philip presented the Templeton Prize for 1982 to the Reverend Dr. Graham, founder of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Evangelism is a duty for every person who worships God in any form. Dr. Graham has originated more new ideas in evangelism than any living person. He has given the Church around the world a new hope and has contributed vastly to the wider vision and meaning of evangelism. His cooperation with all denominations to involve the statesmen of the world in evangelism has left an indelible mark on Christian history. Dr. Graham will now be introduced to you by the Right Honourable Sir Geoffrey Howe, Chancellor of the Exchequer.”
- John M. Templeton, 1982. Read the full speech
Billy Graham accepting award from HRH Prince Phillip
“Billy Graham was largely responsible for the fourth great evangelical revival in America which began in Los Angeles in 1949. At that time, as the flush of victory in the Second World War was being chilled by the onset of the cold war, many in America were hoping and praying for such a revival. Billy Graham said then: ‘We need a revival. I think we are living at a time in world history when God is going to give us a desperate choice, a choice of either revival or judgement’.
He made several visits to this country — the first with the Forces Gospel Song Team, and later with the Youth for Christ Movement. His 12-week crusade in 1954 at the Harringay Arena, and in the following year in Kelvin Hall, Glasgow, were enormously successful and made many converts. During the Kelvin Hall crusade, radio relays were received in 2,000 or more centres throughout Britain. He followed this up with further crusades in London (1955 and 1966–7), Manchester, Glasgow and Belfast (1961) and then in 1970 in Dortmund, Germany. His two-week German crusade was carried by closed circuit television to 35 other European towns and cities.
And he has visited and preached, with great effect, in several countries behind the Iron Curtain. Only this month he has carried the Word of God to the heart of the world’s first officially atheist state, the Soviet Union.
And it is with the Bible that he has armed himself above all else. His characteristic refrain, ‘The Bible says . . .’ exposes both the foundation of his preaching and the explanation for his extraordinary combination of humility and authority.
But to those two essential attributes he has added a third dimension. By harnessing the modern technology of communications in the service of religion — beginning first with the humble radio and now using satellite transmission to spread the gospel — Billy Graham has brought a clear and unmistakable faith to millions. He has literally changed their lives.”
- Sir Geoffrey Howe, 1982. Read the full speech
Read more about Billy Graham here.