Rev. Graham helped make religion popular, says Davidson professor

DAVIDSON, N.C. — While the Rev. Billy Graham led millions of people to read the Bible, many who heard him speak also sought out books about him.

Channel 9 reporter Gina Esposito visited Davidson College Wednesday, where one professor has taken on the challenge of trying to condense Graham's life into one book.

[Rev. Billy Graham, known as 'America's Pastor,' dies at 99]

Anne Blue Wills works in the religion department at the college and is writing a biography on Graham’s wife, Ruth Bell Graham. She also co-edited a volume on Graham that looks at the impact he had on religion and the world.

Wills said Billy Graham accomplished so much in his lifetime and that he felt individual conversation was the way to change society.

“He definitely felt like individual conversion was the way to change to society,” Wills said. “A lot of people have asked who (will be) the next Billy Graham? I’m not sure there will be one.”

Wills said Graham can be linked to changes made at modern-day churches and that he has helped make religion popular by appealing to “regular people,” as well as celebrities and politicians.

Graham was known for his relationships with presidents, particularly President George W. Bush. Wills said presidents looked to Graham to be their connection to the American people.

“I know he had very genuine friendships with a host of presidents,” Wills said. “I think it became a way for presidents to signal that they were sincere and soulful.”

Wills said there hasn't really been anyone who has been able to fill Graham’s shoes in that way.

Wills said that while some have criticized Graham because of his relationships with politicians and soft stance on some social issues, there’s no question his life’s work and passionate sermons had a huge influence on modern day Christianity.