Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Marks Ruth Graham’s 100th Birthday

Ruth and Billy Graham
Ruth and Billy Graham (photo: BGEA)
By Elsie HuJune 12th, 2020

Ruth McCue Bell, the wife of the late renowned evangelist Billy Graham, was born in Qingjiang, Kiangsu, China on June 10, 1920,.  

She came into the world at the Love and Mercy Hospital which was built by the Presbyterian Church in the US. Her parents were L. Nelson Bell, a Presbyterian medical missionary who served as the hospital’s third president and Virginia Leftwich. 

According to the official website of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, in her childhood, she saw the turbulence in China and the people's suffering during the Chinese Civil War. At an early age, "the suffering she observed only strengthened in her the conviction of mankind’s need for the Savior. Into her early adult years, she dreamed of serving as a single missionary in a far corner of the world — the mountainous nation of Tibet.”

In 1937, Ruth enrolled at Wheaton College, outside Chicago, Illinois, and studied the Bible.

Three years later she was introduced to "Preacher", the nickname other students gave the strapping Billy Graham from Charlotte, North Carolina.

"The couple began courting, and so also began a struggle in Ruth between what she thought was her calling to the mission field and her blossoming love for the driven young evangelist. In late April 1941, after much struggling in prayer, Ruth realized her life’s mission was to be bound up in Billy’s passion for evangelism. Shortly after their graduation from Wheaton, the two were married in Montreat on August 13, 1943.

"For a brief period, Ruth served as a pastor’s wife in Western Springs, Illinois, before Billy moved on to serve as an evangelist with Youth for Christ; as president of Northwestern Schools in Minneapolis, Minnesota; and eventually as evangelist and president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

"Ruth treasured her role as the strong woman behind 'America's Pastor' and was Billy's closest confidant, most trusted advisor, and dearest friend. She loved to move behind the scenes, away from the spotlight and helped him craft and research sermons and even books.

After her death, Billy Graham said, "She was a gentle, smiling, and kind person whose primary goal was to live for Christ and reflect His love. In her last days, she talked repeatedly of heaven, and although I will miss her more than I can possibly say, I rejoice that someday soon we will be reunited in the presence of the Lord she loved and served so faithfully."

Growing up in China and receiving middle school education in South Korea, Mrs. Graham had ties with Asian people, encouraging her husband to visit China several times. 

In 1996, she suffered from spinal meningitis. Her condition rapidly worsened. In the following years, she was bedridden and wheelchair bound, not able to join her husband’s ministry. Even so, she supported her husband by her prayers. 

- Translated by Karen Luo

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