America's Preacher: Remembering Billy Graham

To businessmen like hotel magnate J. Willard Marriott, a Mormon multimillionaire, Billy was ‘the leading religious man of our time’—not the least, Marriott explained, ‘because he is non-controversial.’ Billy consciously positioned himself above the mean streets of social conflict. ‘I am,’ he always maintained, ‘a citizen of the kingdom of heaven.’

In fact, Graham was utterly captivated by his privileged access to the princes of this world—especially those who occupied the White House. For decades he virtually owned a key to the Lincoln bedroom. He was in the White House with Lyndon Johnson during the bloody 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. (Indeed, in his autobiography Graham wrote that Johnson had told him earlier that he would not run and offered to put the whole Democratic Party apparatus behind Graham if the evangelist someday ran for President himself.) Graham was there again on Johnson’s last night in office and woke the next morning to preside at the inauguration of his close friend Richard Nixon.

Graham believed that American Presidents, once chosen, were divinely mandated. But Nixon was special: the one president in whom both God and Graham were well pleased.
— Kenneth L. Woodward