Billy Graham leaves behind impact on civil rights in America

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Billy Graham, known as "America's Pastor," died Wednesday morning at the age of 99. 

Graham preached to nearly 215 million people around the world, including many here in Memphis.

He spent more than 60 years in ministry.

A Christian icon, Graham is widely regarded as the most influential evangelical preacher of the 20th century.

He is also known for his nonpartisan Christian views which earned him criticism during the civil rights movement.

Graham was active in the struggle for racial equality.

His dedication to unity is best remembered in his refusal to pay heed to segregation policies, forcing churches to integrate for his services.

"Christianity is not a white man's religion, and don't let anybody ever tell you that it's white or black. Christ belongs to all people," he said.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. counted Graham as a close friend and ally.

In a memoir, Graham recounts inviting Dr. King to join him at a crusade in Madison Square Garden in 1957.

Graham would later pay bail money to get Dr. King out of jail during demonstrations in the 1960s.

Graham visited the Bluff City in the 1970s as part of a Memphis Ministers Association.

A civil rights pioneer, Pastor Billy Graham's message of racial equality was spread around the world.

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