Earl Freudenberg: When Billy Graham Spent Easter In Chattanooga

Thursday, April 1, 2021 - by Earl Freudenberg

Billy Graham spent Easter, 1953, in Chattanooga and that’s been 68 years ago. 

I was listening to an old talk show and listeners were reflecting on Billy Graham’s visit to Chattanooga in 1953. All the meetings except one took place at the Warner Park Field House built especially for the Graham revival. 

On Easter Sunday, 1953, thousands packed Chamberlain Field to hear Dr. Graham preach a simple message of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Hundreds came forward to accept Christ.

Dr. Graham wanted to have other meetings at the football field, but rain forced the crusade back to the field house. 

One listener said Dr. Graham and some deacons from the First Baptist Church came to their North Chattanooga home and had prayer with his very sick mother. Another listener said he was in the Chattanooga High School band which played several hymns before the meetings started.

WDEF Chief Engineer Bob Briscoe said the ABC engineer traveling with Dr. Graham got real sick and was hospitalized. Mr. Briscoe was called upon to take the engineer's place. Mr. Briscoe said it was his responsibility to make sure the Hour of Decision sermons were sent to the network New York studio over special telephone lines. He called it an experience of a lifetime.

The late P.D. Booth, an associate of T. Perry Brannon, attended every service and served as a counselor. Mr. Booth said Dr. Graham had prayer with the counselors before every service. He said it was an unusual experience to stand next to Dr. Graham and listen to him pray. 

Luther talked about driving Billy Graham from the field house to the Patten Hotel, where the Graham team was staying, in his model T.  The late Lee Anderson related the role of reporter George Burnham.  Mr. Anderson said Mr. Burnham covered every meeting for the paper.  Mr. Anderson said Dr. Graham was so impressed with Mr. Burnham’s reporting that he went to see publisher Roy McDonald and got permission for the AP and UPI to use the stories. Mr. Burnham’s articles appeared in just about every major newspaper in the United States. Mr. Burnham reported that around 300,000 attended the Chattanooga crusade. 

Dr. Graham had preached in Chattanooga at Engel Stadium in 1950. He also helped dedicate a new chapel at Baylor School in 1991.  
 
Listen to Mr. Graham’s Easter message preached on the radio from Chattanooga here.

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Contact Earl Freudenberg at HeyEarl1971@comcast.net



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