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The Atlantic Monthly
Tuesday, March 6th, 2007
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Billy Graham: A Parable of American Righteousness

by Marshall Frady

Of Revivals

A review by Benjamin Schwarz

An overly expansive southerner who flowered in the age of the often overly expansive New Journalism, Marshall Frady chose as subjects for his most ambitious, unrestrained, and ragged books three oversized fellow southerners: George Wallace, Jesse Jackson, and Billy Graham. His 1979 Graham biography, based mainly on his exhaustive interviews with and reporting on the reverend and his circle, has long been out of print, and was somewhat eclipsed by William Martin's subsequent, heavily documented, and more considered A Prophet With Honor: The Billy Graham Story, and by Graham's detailed, guileless, thoroughly unrevealing 1997 autobiography, Just As I Am. But this baggy book, just reissued, remains the most vivid portrait. In it, Frady, who died in 2004, presented Graham -- who's preached, it would seem, to more people than any Christian figure in history -- as both a simplistic man of earnest goodwill and a sincere believer, and as perhaps the greatest salesman of the twentieth century.

Benjamin Schwarz is the Atlantic's literary editor and national editor.

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