Don Graham, a pastor turned evangelist who preached to thousands throughout his 63 years of ministry, died today (May 17).
Graham heard the call to preach while walking across a dance floor at age 16 but had no idea where God would take him.
Graham’s ministry began in 1958 at Union Baptist Church in his hometown of Lipscomb. The church’s pastor, James Cambron, took him under his wing and taught him “what you don’t learn in seminary,” Graham said.
Cambron ingrained in him a deep belief in the authority and sufficiency of Scripture, a desire to study God’s Word and a compassion for people. He took Graham visiting and taught him how to witness and conduct weddings and funerals, “modeling all things beautifully” for the young man.
After graduating from Bessemer High School in 1959, Graham earned his bachelor’s degree from Samford University in Birmingham and master of divinity from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. His first church was Samaria Baptist, Clanton.
He served 35 years as a pastor, including leading four Alabama churches — Samaria Baptist Church, Clanton; Katherwood Baptist Church, Birmingham; Bellevue Baptist Church, Gadsden; and First Baptist Church, Center Point.
But he never forgot the influence of Cambron. Just as he was mentored as a young pastor, Graham has spread his passion to others.
“Hundreds of people along the way have wrapped their arms around me and helped me, and I told God that if He would raise up young men, I would do the same as was done for me,” Graham said in 2009, reflecting on his 50th year in ministry.
And he did.
Graham spent 35 years serving churches across the Southeast and at one point, in a 10-month span, he traveled 35,000 miles and ministered in 178 churches.
He also lived out his passion for missions by preaching all over the world. A lot of Graham’s traveling was birthed from a fresh calling to spur God’s people to revival.
In 1972, over the course of a sleepless Saturday night, God placed a burden on his heart for revival. As he began to study it, it became the “mantlepiece” of his life’s work. In July 1996, he established Don Graham Revival Ministries and began full-time itinerant revival ministry.
Graham said he made “a commitment to preach until the Lord comes for me. I will make myself available to preach as God opens doors. There is no retirement for me,” he said.
Roger Willmore, director of missions for Calhoun Baptist Association, called Graham a “dear friend and brother in Christ.”
Willmore said Graham was “driven by a desire to know the fullness of life in Jesus Christ.”
Anchored in the Word
“Don was anchored in Paul’s great word in Philippians 3:13–14, ‘Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,'” Wilmore wrote in a remembrance on Facebook.
Graham is survived by his wife, Ramona Jean; son, John Mark; daughters, Christy and Angela; and four grandchildren.
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