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Billy Graham's 1950 message in Medford: repentance

Two nights before the football season opener in 1950, Billy Graham took center stage at the Medford High School stadium.

Young, dashing and already a popular evangelist, Graham had just concluded a crusade at Portland's Multnomah Stadium, where 20,000 people — including Oregon Gov. Douglas McKay and Washington Gov. Arthur Langley — turned out on the final night.

On Sept. 6, 1950, Graham, who died Wednesday at the age of 99, drew one of the largest crowds the Rogue Valley had seen to that point, with attendees driving from the coast, Klamath Basin, Douglas County and Northern California.

Before interstate freeways linked America, U.S. 99 served as the primary north-south route between Canada and Mexico. The day before appearing in Medford, Graham was in Eugene.

Graham stopped in Jackson County en route to a crusade at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, accompanied by his song leader — and later studio announcer — Cliff Barrows, soloist George Beverly Shea, other staff, and a member of the Youth for Christ organization.

Somewhere between 9,000 and 12,000 people attended the one-night appearance in Medford, contrasting with the weeklong, or weeks-long, crusades in metropolitan areas.

Surrounded by local pastors and hundreds of choir members from local churches, Graham delivered a message of repentance.

Mail Tribune City Editor Eric Allen Jr. covered the revival meeting, in which Graham took a passage from the Old Testament prophet Amos for his text. Graham's theme, he wrote, "was a call for Americans to 'prepare to meet thy God, for judgment is coming.' "

Graham drew a parallel between America's wickedness and that of Israel during Amos' day in the 8th century B.C.

"We are standing on the brink of catastrophe, and the only thing to save us is an old-fashioned, God-sent revival," Allen quoted Graham. "In two years, without the intervention of God, it will be all over (for) our schools, our churches, our way of life."

Fred DeVos, pastor of Grace Community Church in Central Point, arrived in the Rogue Valley three years later. But he saw Graham during his tent-revival days in the 1940s when his parents drove them from Arizona to take in a crusade in Southern California.

"I remember walking into the tent — it was huge, with sawdust on the floor, and chairs," DeVos said. "Billy Graham has been a godly example, and role model to me."

DeVos recalls his days at Prairie Bible Institute in Alberta, Canada, when a speaker once asked how many of the more than 500 students at a Tuesday evening event had been saved at a Billy Graham crusade.

"I couldn't believe how many kids stood up in that meeting," he said. "One thing that was such a blessing is that through all his ministry, he and his staff never had a moral problem; they were squeaky clean."

— Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or gstiles@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness or www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.

The Rev. Billy Graham speaks during the Mission Metroplex at Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2002. Graham died Wednesday at age 99. (AP Photo/LM Otero)