William Franklin Graham III, son and namesake of evangelist Billy Graham, has been chosen to succeed his father as head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
A day after Billy Graham’s 77th birthday, the association’s board announced Wednesday that his 43-year-old son, known as Franklin, will hold the newly created title of first vice chairman of the association. The position is described as having “direct succession to become chairman and CEO, should his father ever become incapacitated.”
Franklin Graham has become a religious crusader in his own right, filling stadiums in mid-sized cities and operating Samaritan’s Purse and World Medical Mission, international relief organizations headquartered in Boone, N.C.
His autobiography, “Rebel With a Cause,” was published by Thomas Nelson this year with the subtitle, “Finally Comfortable Being Graham.” The book details his years of running from God and public expectations - including confrontations from the police and expulsion from college - and his return to the fold.
Franklin Graham will continue his relief work and will conduct eight to 10 crusades for the Billy Graham Evangelist Association in 1996.
Wednesday’s announcement “settled within the organization the question of succession and its future,” according to a board statement. It also ends years of speculation within the religious community about who would follow the world’s best known evangelist as head of a finely tuned $100-million-a-year international enterprise.
In interviews before his Atlanta crusade last year, Billy Graham, who has Parkinson’s disease, said he would leave the choice of his successor up to the board and to God. “As a father I am both proud of his capacity for leadership and humbled in gratitude for the Lord’s blessing on him,” he said of his son in a statement released Wednesday.