One of Billy Graham’s greatest compliments came from a man he knew on a nickname basis as “Mike.” Most people know that person as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
King once said of Graham, “Had it not been for the ministry of my good friend Dr. Billy Graham, my work in the Civil Rights Movement would not have been as successful as it has been,” according to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Graham died Wednesday morning at his Montreat, N.C., home after years of battling health issues. He was 99.
Graham in his autobiography, “Just As I Am,” recalled meeting King during a 1957 New York Crusade meeting.
Though Graham was criticized for not marching with Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s, King thanked Graham for sharing a platform with him at Madison Square Garden as part of the July, 1957, crusade.
King led the invocation at the event, and called the discussion the two shared during the trip “one of the high points of my life.”
In a letter to Graham a month later, King praised Graham for working to integrate crusades.
“You have courageously brought the Christian gospel to bear on the question of race,” King wrote Graham on Aug. 31, 1957.
King continued in an encouraging tone: “Your tremendous popularity, your extensive influence and your powerful message give you an opportunity in the area of human rights above almost any other person that we can point to.”
Following King’s assassination in Memphis in 1968, Graham was quoted saying the country had lost “a social leader and a prophet.”
“I felt his death would be one of the greatest tragedies in our history,” Graham said of King.
The King Center, a nonprofit formed in 1968 for people “to learn, be inspired and pay their respects to Dr. King’s legacy,” saluted Graham in a tweet Wednesday morning, but later deleted the tweet.
“Praying for his family as they mourn, while celebrating his transition into eternity. Bolstered by his messages of hope and work on behalf of humanity,” the tweet read.