With the passing of Billy Graham this week, Birmingham is remembering the time the beloved evangelist spoke to tens of thousands at Legion Field in 1964 and 1972.
Bham Now recently discovered several photos from the Billy Graham online archives, and secured permission to use the images from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
1964 Easter Rally
To bring some context to the event in 1964, here are two excerpts from Bhamwiki.com describing the crusade.
“Evangelist Billy Graham’s 1964 Easter Rally or United Evangelistic Rally was held at Legion Field on Easter Sunday, March 29, 1964. By that time, evangelist Billy Graham was already known worldwide, and had come to support the Civil Rights Movement, even contributing funds toward Martin Luther King Jr’s bail from Birmingham City Jail the previous Spring. Graham’s national crusade that year broke down persistent barriers of segregation by requiring that venues be open to all races without separate seating. His actions won admiration among Birmingham’s black ministers.”
Actual video footage from the 1964 Rally.
According to Bhamwiki, the crowd of 35,000 was about evenly split between whites and blacks. It was reported to be the “largest integrated audience in the state’s history.”
WVTM NBC 13 interviewed this week Rev. Calvin Woods about the historic importance of that visit, which followed after the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church.
1972 visit brings out Bear Bryant
The 1972 event at Legion Field capped off the week-long Alabama Crusade. Alabama’s legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant was in attendance along with Dallas Cowboys Tom Landry and Joe Namath.
Nearly a decade after the height of the civil rights movement in Birmingham, Graham got to see the progress that had been made since 1964.
There will be a week of activities celebrating and remembering Graham’s life. His body will lie in honor on the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
Recognized as the pastor to Presidents, Graham also touched the lives of many Alabamians and helped our state move forward, especially that fateful Easter, when he insisted everyone be able to attend his crusade, resulting in the largest integrated event in the state’s history at the time.