It has also been declared “Billy Graham Day” not only by local mayors but by the General Assembly through a resolution presented by state Rep. Kevin Brooks.
The resolution presented by Brooks recounts the history of Graham’s journey to ministry, a journey that brought him to Cleveland to attend Bob Jones College in 1936.
A ceremony dedicating the section of roadway began at noon with a luncheon for invited guests and ended with a ribbon cutting open to the public.
Several community leaders spoke or made presentations including Lee University President Paul Conn; Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland; Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis; state Rep. Kevin Brooks; the Rev. Ed Robinson, president of the Bradley County Ministerial Association, and Melissa Woody, vice president, Convention and Visitors Bureau of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce, made presentations during the luncheon at the Lee University Science and Math Complex.
This location was chosen because it is at the corner of Billy Graham Avenue, a renamed section of 15th Street, and Ocoee Street. The building is also across the street from Medlin Hall, the dormitory in which Graham lived when Bob Jones College was on the site. (For more about the history of Billy Graham in the Cleveland area, see the “Billy Graham Avenue” article in Thursday’s edition of the Banner.)
Although Billy Graham will be unable to attend the ceremony, his daughter Virginia “Gigi” Graham will represent the family at the ceremony.
The Rev. Mike Cutshaw of Charleston United Methodist Church will give the invocation. This church is the longest-running continual congregation in Bradley County. When Graham was here, he preached his first sermon at this church. It had been called the Charleston Methodist Episcopal Church at the time.
The ceremony concluded with the Voices of Lee a cappella group singing “Just as I Am.”
The General Assembly resolution recognized Graham for having “demonstrated the utmost ability and integrity, winning the unbridled respect and admiration of his friends, his family, and the plethora of people who accepted Jesus as their personal savior as result of his ministry.”
According to the resolution, Graham was “known in the early days as a ‘Tent Preacher,’ (and) he held his first massive revival in Los Angeles, and soon thereafter entered into a lifelong friendship and working relationship with George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows.”
Graham has met with every president from Harry Truman to Barack Obama.
During a planning meeting for the official dedication, Brooks said it was amazing how many different denominations were mentioned in the resolution recounting Graham’s ministry.