Expert Pitch: FSU professor available to comment on Billy Graham legacy

McVicar researches the relationship between religion and politics in 20th century U.S. history.

On Wednesday, Feb. 21, Billy Graham died at the age of 99. He was known worldwide for preaching and teaching about Christianity through a variety of mediums, including TV and film. Graham also provided counsel to several U.S. presidents and championed desegregation in the 1960s.

As many mourn the loss of Graham and remember the religious icon, a Florida State University professor is available to comment on his legacy in conservative evangelical circles.

Michael McVicar, assistant professor, Department of Religion,

McVicar researches the relationship between religion and politics in 20th century U.S. history, with a focus on the emergence of the American conservative movement in the post-World War II era. He also studies the relationship between religion, the state and corporations in 20th century American culture.

“Today, I started my 3000-level religion course by asking students if they knew who Billy Graham was. Of the 17 students present, all but one knew who he was. Then I followed up and asked if anyone knew why he was important. The consensus answer was that he was a “televangelist,” like Joel Osteen. Only one student knew he had served as a religious adviser to several presidents. It was hardly a random scientific sample of undergraduates, but I was disappointed by how little they knew. I told them Graham did far more than embrace television or minister to figures like President Richard Nixon — he essentially remade conservative evangelicalism in the 1950s into the kinds of Protestantism that most of my students think of as quintessentially “Christian.” He didn’t do it alone, of course, but conservative evangelicalism wouldn’t be what it is today without Graham.”