A marker observing the site where evangelist Billy Graham began his preaching ministry four decades ago has been erected here by the Florida Historical Society.
It was dedicated at a ceremony attended by the evangelist and Florida Gov.Bob Graham during the week of the Billy Graham during the week of the Billy Graham Florida West Coast Crusade recently. The historical marker on the grounds of the State of Florida Office Building, reads:
"From the sidewalk in this Franklin Street neighborhood, the Rev. Dr. Billy Graham 40 years ago launched his worldwid Christian evangelistic crusade exhorting derelicts, drunks, and skid row bums. Since then, he has preached to more people than any other person, reaching millions. Dr. Graham attended Florida Bible Institute at Temple Terrace, graduating in 1940. While a student here, Dr. Graham heard the call, and prayed, "O God, if you want me to preach, I'll do its.'"
During the crusade at Tampa Stadium, Graham preached to an average crowd of 35,000. According to the Rev. Earl Hartman, pastor of Tampa's Davis Islands Community Church, "the closing Sunday attendance of 52,000 was the largest crowd ever to participate in a religious event in the history of Florida."
Tampa's Mayor Bill Poe said, "There has never been anything like it. There's been an electricity going throughout our city as a result of this."
The next major Billy Graham crusade will be in Sydney, Australia, this month. Anglican Archbishop Marcus Loane of Sydney, primate of the Anglican Church in Australia, is chairing the event.