THE BLOG
11/18/2013 04:48 pm ET Updated Jan 25, 2014

Billy Graham's Warning to JFK

One week before President John F. Kennedy made the fateful trip to Dallas in 1963, Billy Graham "had an inner foreboding that something terrible was going to happen" to the president while there. He cited the "burden" he felt for him in his 1997 memoir, Just As I Am.

Ten days before JFK was inaugurated, the president-elect invited Graham to meet him at his father's Palm Beach (Florida) home for an introduction over a round of golf. Not only was this afford a chance for the evangelist to get to know the next leader of the free world, Kennedy asked a question that first day that allowed Graham to share more about his Christian faith. Graham recalls being driven back to his home by Kennedy after the game:

On the way back to the Kennedy house, the President-elect stopped the car and turned to me. "Do you believe in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ?" he asked unexpectedly.

"I most certainly do."

"Well, does my church believe it?"

"They have it in their creeds."

"They don't preach it," he said. "They don't tell us much about it. I'd like to know what you think."
(Just As I Am, p. 395)

At this point, Graham recounts taking the opportunity to walk the president-elect through the essential truths of the Apostle's Creed -- the incarnation of Christ, the crucifixion, the resurrection and the Second Coming. He remembers Kennedy responding, "Very interesting. We'll have to talk more about that someday."

Graham's final visit with JFK was the 1963 National Prayer Breakfast. At the conclusion of the meeting, Kennedy asked Graham to ride back to the White House with him for a chance to talk further. Because he was battling a fever, the evangelist declined, not wanting to further expose the president to it. This would ultimately prove to be the last chance Graham would ever have to talk with JFK. In his memoir recall's the president's eagerness to talk with him and writes, "His hesitation at the car door, and his request, haunt me still. What was on his mind? Should I have gone with him? It was an irrecoverable moment."

Although that missed opportunity troubled him, the most daunting of Graham's recollections of JFK was the "inner foreboding" he felt in November 1963. Here's the account in his words:

Sometime toward the end of the second week in November [1963], I unaccountably felt such a burden about the presidential visit to Dallas that I decided to phone our mutual friend, Senator [George] Smathers, to tell him I really wanted to talk to the president. His secretary told me Senator Smathers was on the Senate floor and would call me back. Instead, he sent me a telegram that the President would get in touch with me directly. He thought I wanted to talk about the President's invitation to another golf game in Florida that weekend; the game was off, he said, and would have to be rescheduled.

But all I wanted to tell him and the President was one thing: "Don't go to Texas!"
(Just As I Am, p. 400)