The Friendship of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Dr. Billy Graham

Can you imagine what this reunion looks like in Heaven right now? Two of America’s most well known pastors have been reunited. Both devoted their lives to sharing the Gospel and inviting all people into a relationship with Jesus Christ. Sometimes I forget these two men of faith existed in the same time. I love knowing they were friends.

Dr. Billy Graham shared in his autobiography that he met Dr. King in 1957 at a New York City crusade meeting.

“One night civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whom I was pleased to count a friend, gave an eloquent opening prayer at the service; he also came at my invitation to one of our Team retreats during the Crusade to help us understand the racial situation in America more fully.”

These two men reached across divided aisles to listen and learn from one another. They became such good friends that, at MLK’s invitation, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was just “Mike” to him.

“His father,” explains Graham in his biography, Just As I Am, “who was called Big Mike, called him Little Mike. He asked me to call him just plain Mike.”

Mike. Billy. Two men who loved Jesus and wanted others to know - to have the same opportunities to know Him – were friends.

In this letter to Billy Graham, Dr. King wrote, “I will long remember the fellowship we enjoyed together. The discussion period that we shared together will remain one of the high points of my life. It was also a great Christian experience to share the platform with you at Madison Square Garden and be a part of such a meaningful service of Christian worship.”

He continued, adding, “I am deeply grateful to you for the stand which you have taken in the area of race relations. You have courageously brought the Christian gospel to bear on the question of race in all of its urgen (sic) dimensions. I am sure you will continue this emphasis in all of your preaching, for you, above any other preacher in America can open the eyes of many persons on this question.”

Their friendship and respect for another ran so deep that Dr. Graham canceled a European vacation in 1965 to join Dr. King in sharing the gospel with Atlanta.

Dr. Graham preached this reminder in South Africa in 1973 (at the height of apartheid), “Jesus was not a white man; He was not a black man. He came from that part of the world that touches Africa and Asia and Europe. 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 belongs to the whole world.”

Two men. One black. One white. Both united in their love for Jesus and showing us today what it looks like that we are stronger together as the family of God. What a reunion in Heaven it must be!