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Billy Graham’s Sister Jean Remembered

by | Thu, Mar 7 2024

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The only living sibling of late American evangelist Billy Graham, Jean Graham Ford, has passed away at the age of 91. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) said “after a life lived faithfully for Jesus Christ, she is now in the presence of her Lord and Saviour.”

Her nephew and Billy’s evangelist son Franklin Graham said his Aunt Jean loved Jesus, her family, her church and the work of God’s people. He said she was always a great encourager to her famous brother, who often sought her wise counsel.

Jean was the youngest of four children born to Frank and Morrow Graham in Charlotte, North Carolina. Though nearly 14 years apart, Jean had a special relationship with her oldest brother Billy whom she affectionately called “Billy Frank.” She shared in 2010: “[With Billy Frank] being so much older, it was sort of like having a second parent. I’ve always just adored him and still do.”

BGEA reports: “Growing up on a dairy farm with her siblings was a delight for Jean. I was a tomboy, she explained. I loved to be outdoors driving the tractor or the wagons, the mules, [or] playing with the goats. Life threw Jean a curveball at 11, though, when she contracted polio. A doctor told her parents she probably wouldn’t live through the night. I do remember this very clearly, she said in 2020. If I died that night, at that age, that would not have bothered me so much because I knew then I was going to Heaven.

She eventually recovered and followed in Billy Graham’s footsteps to attend Wheaton College in Illinois where she met her future husband Leighton Ford, a Youth for Christ leader, who went on to serve as an associate evangelist with the BGEA for three decades.

When the couple tragically lost their oldest son Sandy during heart surgery at the age of 21, they chose to cling to their faith in God, even as they struggled with why He would let it happen. “We made that decision that night. God is good .. even when we weren’t feeling that way,” Jean admitted in a later interview.

BGEA writes “Jean lived a life devoted to studying God’s Word and telling others about His free gift of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. For many years, she taught Bible studies and spoke at engagements around the world.” She is survived by Leighton and their children Deborah and Kevin, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Just over six years ago, Jean spoke at Billy Graham’s funeral, revealing that when she heard of his passing, she was reminded of an old hymn, Heaven Came Down and Filled My Soul With Glory. “On February the 21st, Heaven came down and took my brother from me. One day, Heaven will come down and take me. And I know what [my brother] would want me to say today is, ‘Heaven is coming again and would like to take you also.’”

Photo: Billy Graham Evangelistic Association