Saturday, June 29, 2002

Reporter recalls Graham meeting 25 years ago

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The spiritual aside, it is hard for me to think of Billy Graham and not think of butter.

        In October 1977, the last time the world-famous evangelist held a crusade in Cincinnati, I was a 24-year-old cub reporter for the Troy (Ohio) Daily News, a small-town daily newspaper about 75 miles north of Cincinnati.

        That year, the Rev. Mr. Graham was 58 years old, in robust health, and seemingly always available for media interviews.

        Even a reporter for a tiny 13,000-circulation newspaper in western Ohio could get one if he asked, which I did.

        It took place early in the morning of Oct. 20 in a suite in the Westin Hotel downtown.

        The Rev. Mr. Graham sat in a comfortable arm chair; I sat across from him. A hotel busboy wheeled in a tea cart loaded with breakfast rolls, butter pats and coffee.

        We had a wide-ranging and pleasant talk for about 45 minutes on matters of theology and politics. I remember him speaking approvingly of the fact that the nation had a president in Jimmy Carter who openly and often acknowledged that he was a “born again” Christian.

        As the interview came to a close, the Rev. Mr. Graham leaned forward and asked if I would mind if “we close our meeting in prayer.”

        I agreed, and he clasped his hands over mine on the tea cart.

        What he did not know was that he had planted my right hand squarely on a quickly melting slab of butter the size of a credit card.

        When he came to his “Amen,” I quickly looked around for a linen napkin so I wouldn't grease his wrist up to the elbow when we shook hands.

        “I've enjoyed our talk,” he said as I made my way to the door.

        “Me too, reverend.”


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