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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA FILE / JOHN DART

Billy Graham Recalls Help From Hearst

June 07, 1997|JOHN DART

Evangelist Billy Graham recalls in his new book the pivotal point in his young ministry when, during a 1949 Los Angeles crusade, a two-word directive from publisher William Randolph Hearst to "puff Graham" made him an instant celebrity nationwide.

The sudden front-page coverage showered on Graham by Hearst newspapers in mid-October (after three weeks of little notice) was quickly matched by other newspapers and newsmagazines--literally a media circus descending on his rallies under a big tent.

The elder statesman of evangelical Christianity contends in "Just as I Am" (HarperCollins), however, that he never learned why Hearst took an interest in him. "Hearst and I did not meet, talk by phone, or correspond as long as he lived," Graham wrote.

Graham's autobiography makes no reference to a theory by William Martin in his acclaimed 1991 Graham biography, "A Prophet With Honor," (William Morrow) that noted that all Hearst papers had boosted the nationwide Youth for Christ organization to which Graham belonged. Martin said Hearst also sent a "puff YFC" telegram in 1946. The Hearst-owned Los Angeles Examiner gave Youth for Christ leader Roy McKeown a weekly column to report on the group's activities.

Graham ended his extended tent crusade Nov. 20, 1949, amid some much publicized celebrity conversions.

A hit with many Hollywood figures, Graham opened his own Burbank movie studio, World Wide Pictures, in 1951 to make religious dramas that ended with Graham on screen inviting audiences to commit to Christ.

In an episode in 1950, Graham wrote that he turned down a film offer from the president of Paramount Studios, Y. Frank Freeman. It came during a lunch attended by Cecil B. DeMille, then about ready to remake "The Ten Commandments," and by actors Anthony Quinn, Barbara Stanwyck and Betty Hutton.

"I'd like you to consider doing a film with us," said Freeman, according to Graham.

"I looked him straight in the eye, with the others listening, and told him that God had called me to preach the Gospel and that I would never do anything else as long as I lived," Graham wrote.

Ironically, years later the evangelist got a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame for his media-savvy use of radio, television and films to supplement his mass crusades.

HONORS

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The National Lawyers Guild, a 60-year-old organization of human rights attorneys and legal workers, will honor the Rev. James Lawson at its annual dinner meeting Sunday at the Omni Los Angeles Hotel. Lawson, active in civil rights protests with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., is the longtime pastor of Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles. (213) 653-4510.

* Adaire Klein, who directs the extensive library and archives at the Simon Wiesenthal Center and its Beit Hashoah Museum of Tolerance, started with only 50 books in 1978 and will be honored Monday night by the Assn. of Jewish Libraries of Southern California. The meeting will be at the MidValley Regional Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library, 16244 Nordhoff St., North Hills. (818) 981-6920.

* Maestra "Mimi" Noemi Garcia de Watson, who taught Spanish for 25 years at Belmont Community Adult School in Los Angeles, will be presented an award by Jose Pescador-Osuna, Mexico's consul general in Los Angeles, at 10 a.m. Monday. The ceremony will precede a luncheon at Los Angeles First Baptist Church, 760 S. Westmoreland Ave., where Watson has been a member since 1953 and active in women's ministries. (213) 384-2151.

CONFERENCES

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Theologian Matthew Fox, founder-president of the University of Creation Spirituality in Oakland, will speak Friday night at the Recovery Ministries annual conference, which begins Thursday at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena. Also speaking will be Episcopal Bishop Frederick Borsch of Los Angeles and Episcopal priest Leo Booth of Long Beach. Recovery Ministries addresses all forms of addiction, compulsive behavior and abuse issues, a spokesman said. Conference events cost $25 to $135. (562) 427-6003.

* Relating spirituality to business life and work routines is the topic of a three-day conference at Loyola Marymount University's Center for Pastoral Life, starting Friday and led by Jesuit Father Francis Stroud of Fordham University. Cost: $175. (310) 338-2799.

HOLIDAY

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Shavuot, the Jewish holiday marking Moses' reception of the Torah on Mt. Sinai, will mean for some Jews staying up all Tuesday night studying, observing rituals and enjoying refreshments such as coffee and cheesecake.

Groups include Temple Beth Hillel, a Reform synagogue in North Hollywood, whose participants plan to celebrate from 10 p.m. to noon Wednesday. (818) 763-9148.

A joint observance in Westwood begins with an 11:45 p.m. talk on "Resurrection: Jewish Style" at Westwood Kehilla, 10537 Santa Monica Blvd., and moves to Kahal Joseph, at 10507 Santa Monica Blvd. for a 2:45 a.m. talk on the Ten Commandments. (310) 441-5288.

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