Heroes of the Faith: Ruth Bell Graham

Ruth Bell Graham was the wife and life partner of evangelist Billy Graham.

Ruth with her children

She was born on June 10, 1920 in Qingjiang, Jiangsu, Republic of China. Her parents L. Nelson and Virginia Leftwich Bell were medical missionaries to Shandhai.

She enrolled at the age of 13 in the Pyeng Yang Foreign School in Pyongyang, Korea. She then graduated high school in Montreat, North Carolina while her parents were on furlough.

She graduated from Wheaton College in Illinois. While there she met William Franklin “Billy” Graham. The couple married on August 13, 1943.

Ruth went on to have five children. She raised the children and kept the house while her husband traveled the world as an evangelists. She instilled a love for the Lord in all five of her children, each one entering into the ministry. She also taught Sunday School at her local church.

Ruth and Billy Graham

She also served as helpmate to her husband in his ministry, serving as his adviser in is ministry and keeping him grounded.

Ruth named her husband’s radio program “Hour of Decision”.

In 1959, Ruth Graham published Our Christmas Story, her first book. She would go on to write or co-write thirteen other books, including books of poetry. She is said to often write poetry as an emotional release during her husband’s travels.

She founded the Ruth and Billy Graham Children’s Health Center in Asheville, North Carolina, in 1966. She remained active in the organization the remainder of her life.

She continued to have a heart for the people of Asia and encouraged her husband to visit. She accompanied him on his historic visit to the People’s Republic of China.

Ruth Graham

“Graham’s significant role in her husband’s ministry was recognized in 1996, when they were jointly awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in a special ceremony in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C..”

She released her autobiography in the late 1990s, now titled Ruth, A Portrait.

In 1995, she suffered spinal meningitis and her health never recovered. It was made worse by degenerative osteoarthritis. During the final months of her life she became bedridden.

The day before her death, Billy Graham released a statement saying “Ruth is my soul mate and best friend, and I cannot imagine living a single day without her by my side. I am more and more in love with her today than when we first met over 65 years ago as students at Wheaton College.”

Ruth Bell Graham

Ruth Bell Graham entered into her home in glory on June 14, 2007. She’d turned 87 four days earlier.

“In a statement released from Wheaton College, Duane Litfin, president of the school, remarked, “Strong, steady, and dauntless, Ruth Bell Graham was the glue that held many of the parts of their lives together.”

She was buried on the grounds at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her husband was laid to rest beside her a decade later.

She stood as a helpmate to her husband, assisting him in spreading the gospel around the world.

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