Graham Aims for Record in New York City Crusade

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<i> From Associated Press</i>

The Rev. Billy Graham, patriarch of American evangelicalism for four decades, hopes to have his largest domestic crusade ever in the city that launched him to stardom.

Thirty-four years after he took New York City by storm, filling up Madison Square Garden for four months in a crusade that had been scheduled to last only six weeks, Graham will speak at Central Park on Sept. 22.

Organizers of the outdoor meeting hope to draw more than the 134,000 people that packed the Los Angeles Coliseum on Sept. 8, 1963.


“We have the potential to be the biggest meeting that Billy Graham has ever had in North America and we have the potential to be the biggest flop,” said Dan Southern, director of Mission Metro New York.

The Rev. V. Simpson Turner, pastor of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Brooklyn and chairman of the Central Park meeting, said the attendance figure that is being kicked around is “upwards of 250,000, 300,000.”

The largest one-day crowd ever to hear Graham came in June 1973, when more than 1.1 million people packed an evangelistic meeting in Seoul, South Korea, said A. Larry Ross, Graham’s spokesman.

City officials are less convinced of the drawing power of the evangelist.

Parks Department spokesmen said they expect about 70,000 people.

But Graham has defied expectations before.

In 1957, a planned six-week crusade in New York City was extended to 16 weeks to accommodate crowds that totaled more than 2 million. Police estimated the crowd at the final gathering at Times Square at 75,000.