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Interview with Charles H. Little, Jr.

Little, Charles H.
Perry, Morgan
Date of Interview: 
Billy Graham; evangelistic work
Mr. Little discusses Billy Graham`s evangelism and relates the story of Graham`s first preaching in Charlotte at the Sharon Presbyterian Church.
Interview Setting: 
Interviewed at Sharon Towers, Charlotte, NC.
Levine Museum of the New South, Billy Graham Series
Collection Description: 
Billy Graham Series
Interview Audio: 
MP (Morgan Perry): This is Morgan Perry, and it is April 16, 1996--.
CL (Charles H. Little, Jr.): Nineteenth.
MP: Nineteenth, 1996. And I am at Sharon Towers with Mr. Charles Little, Charles Little, Jr. who will tell me my, his story about Billy Graham. If you will start by stating your full name and then tell us about you, what you know about Billy Graham.
CL: My name is Charles Howie Little, Jr., and I am famous because my father preached at Sharon Church for thirty-three years. That was back in the days when the minister of the church and his family had to have at least one meal with every family in the congregation during the year. And we had dinner with the Graham`s each year, at least once. And they were not members of the church, but all their cousins were. And so they felt right home at Sharon even though Mr. Graham was an ARP. So I got to know Billy Graham when he was kid and his sister. And Mr. Graham and Dad were very good friends. Actually we knew the people who ran his farm, the McMakin`s, and they were all about Billy`s age, and, all the boys, and so we heard all about the Grahams whatever they did and so on over the years. And Mrs. Black, the Blacks were members of Sharon, and Mrs. Black was Mr. Graham`s sister, Billy`s aunt. And the Stafford`s were members of Sharon Church, and Mrs. Stafford was a sister of Mr. Graham. And as I say, all of Billy`s cousins, [Laughter] half of Billy`s cousins were members of Sharon Church. I--. The first thing I do when I think about Billy and his family was that Mr. Graham was a very stern man. I think this had something to do with Billy in a lot of ways, but in his early years, I thought he was under a great deal of strain, certainly more strain with his father than I had with mine. And thinking back on it, I`m sure that had something to do with his character both before and after. But Billy knew all about the church. He talks about his conversion under Ham and, which may be true, but he knew--. I think Billy had a good background as to what the Christian faith was all about long before Ham. [Clears throat] But, certainly, that occasion became very important to him, and he speaks of it as his conversion. The first thing entered our minds, I think, was, "Is Billy going to be an evangelist like Ham?" He`d already gone to Florida and bought a tent, I think. Mr. Ham left Charlotte with about 3,000 converts, but he had downgraded the life of the churches so much that these 3,000 people didn`t have anywhere to go. To put it mildly, I--. We thought this was--. Well, we wondered how in the world--. What path he would follow in his ministry. He came back to Charlotte. Well, first of all, he didn`t want to go to school. He wanted to begin preaching and of course he couldn`t do that in the ARP Church or the Presbyterian [Laughter] Church, and so he became a Baptist so he could preach, which was OK. And he came back to Charlotte. And I checked on this when I came back from Raleigh about nine years ago. A [Pause], a movement in Sharon Church to the sessions suggested that we ought to have Billy preach at Sharon Church. At this time he had not been ordained. And--. [Voices in backgroud]
CL: There were some people in the church who felt, you know, that he was not at this point in position to preach at Sharon to his cousins [Laughter], and everybody knew. And as I understood, there was considerable discussion in the session. And I think this says a great deal about my father. He is reputed to have said, "Of course, Billy--. We all know Billy Frank." We always said Billy Frank in those days. "And we, we, we don`t know about his life to be or--. But if the Holy Spirit has called Billy Frank to be something, we ought to hear him. And if the Holy Spirit has not called him, it won`t hurt us." And so [Laughter] Billy Frank preached a sermon at Sharon. I was not there, but I`m told that everybody was very happy to have him and all his cousins were there and urging hims on. As I started to say, we were--. Had a feeling which way would Billy go. And the amazing thing is that he made a decision, which I think is important to his life and to his ministry. After he started preaching, he would not go into a town as an evangelist until he had all the churches ready for him. And I think this is the secret of his success, partly: that he did not leave his coverts without a place to go like Mr. Ham had done. But when the decision makers went down front, they were immediately put with a person who was connected with a church, who was invited to their church and, in our judgment, we were delighted. We thought this was a great move. I, I have to admit this, this is a move that we did not necessarily expect Billy Frank to make at that age. He--. I don`t know how old he was. He couldn`t have been more than what-eighteen, nineteen? We finished high school pretty early in those days. But anyway, he was a young man, and we would--. I have always been delighted with the way he`s gone and the way he`s handled himself over the years.
CL: I was telling you a while ago that I came back in the fall of `86 when Billy Frank and his graduating class at Sharon High School were having their reunion. And during the week, they`d have three or four people each night on television to tell what they thought about Billy Frank and his message and his work. And they were wonderfully wrapped up in what he did and so on. But, invariably, each one of them at the end of saying all the good things and how they felt about Billy Frank would say, "We certainly didn`t expect Billy Frank to be a preacher." [Laughter] Which I think lends a little credence to the story about the discussion whether or not he should preach at Sharon.
CL: I have foll--. I`ve followed his career all these years and have, have found him very faithful. I felt so sorry for him because I think he got trapped with President Nixon and the prayer breakfast there, and I think Billy Frank felt very close to Nixon and was definitely hurt during the era when he resigned as president and so on. And I really felt kind of tender toward him when he joined in the funeral and did the best he could to, not to mention his disappointment, none of that. And I thought that was a great thing that he could do and did. I was delighted that he could do it and would consent to do it. But I know that, that there was a disappointment there that shook him up.
CL: I [Pause] don`t know what to say except that he has, has been helpful to the church, the Christian church. He hasn`t embarrassed the Christian church. His messages have been thoughtful and meaningful, and I think he has done a great work as a independent evangelist.