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CNN PEOPLE IN THE NEWS

Profile of Tom Hanks, Profile of Reverend Billy Graham

Aired May 29, 2004 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Catherine Callaway in Atlanta with the headlines. Friendly fire is now blamed for the death of an American war hero. The U.S. Army says that former football star turned soldier Pat Tillman was probably killed by gunfire from his own unit. An investigation concludes that it happened during the confusion of an ambush in Afghanistan on April 22.
And gunmen storm an oil company headquarters in Saudi Arabia, killing at least six people, including an American. Saudi security forces were locked in a standoff with the four attackers who barricaded themselves in the compound with several hostages. Officials say they are wanted militants with links to al Qaeda.

And an Israeli army officer and a Palestinian militant are killed in separate incidents in the Mideast. Israel says that Palestinian gunmen shot the officer while his unit was conducting house searches in a West Bank refugee camp near Nablus. The military -- the militant, rather, was killed in northern Gaza near a border crossing fence. Israel says that he was carrying two explosive devices.

I'm Catherine Callaway. And now PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

ANNOUNCER: Next on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, the Oscar-winning actor who has made a career of portraying and honoring the American hero.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM HANKS, ACTOR: The generation ahead of us did not shirk for a moment from hard work, from the concept of sacrifice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUCER: His road to stardom started with a nomadic childhood.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HANKS: By the time I was 10 I had lived in 10 different households.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: He went from star of a TV sitcom to hitting it "Big" in the movies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He followed up "Big" with some sort of riskier choices, and most of them didn't really pay off.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: But his serious roles as an AIDS patient and a simple southerner would earn him back-to-back Oscars.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HANKS: I went to the Academy Awards, again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: The unassuming actor who has become a major force in cinema, Tom Hanks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILLY GRAHAM, EVANGELIST: We find ourselves in a world dilemma!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Then, for nearly seven decades he has spread the good word.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAHAM: God loves you. His great message is about the love of God.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: He has befriended presidents and preached to more than 200 million people.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When he looks you in the eye you feel like he's penetrating to your soul.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: But his experience in the halls of power has been touched by controversy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was being used and he came to understand that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Even at the age of 85, he remains faithful to his mission.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's an authority and a respect that he commands.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: From North Carolina farm boy to legendary evangelist, the spiritual journey of Billy Graham. Their stories now on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

PAUL ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, welcome to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. I'm Paula Zahn.

Tom Hanks has become synonymous with World War II from "Saving Private Ryan" to a "Band of Brothers," Hanks has come to embody the modern day version of the greatest generation. So it only seems natural he would help dedicate the new World War II Memorial this weekend in Washington. After all, Hanks is arguably the most powerful and popular star in Hollywood. He's definitely one of the most bankable.

Here's Kyra Phillips.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And here he is, Mr. Tom Hanks!

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For more than 20 years, Tom Hanks has been a major force in America's movies. In his latest film, "The Terminal," Hanks teams up again with his old friend, director Steven Spielberg.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE TERMINAL")

HANKS: I help you.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Do you live nearby?

HANKS: Yes, gate 67.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Did you say gate 67?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: It's the third time the two have worked together on a feature film.

HANKS: Hey, boss. Thank you so much.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE TERMINAL")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You headed for home?

HANKS: No, I am delayed. Long time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Hanks plays an Eastern European traveler stranded inside Kennedy Airport after a coup in his homeland invalidates his passport.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE TERMINAL")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: There's a man walking around the terminal in a bathrobe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Living inside the airport terminal for months, he observes many facets of life.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE TERMINAL")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You ever feel like you are just living in an airport?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: And even finds romance with a flight attendant played by Catherine Zeta-Jones.

STEVEN SPIELBERG, DIRECTOR: Tom plays very normal people. The audiences imprint on him, and they say, I can be this guy. He's not so far out of reach that I couldn't be like him.

PHILLIPS: Hanks makes you believe. You could love a mermaid. Be a child again. Find love a second time. Struggle against hate. Be simple and honest. Solve any problem. Fight the good fight. And with hope in your heart, survive one more day.

(AUDIO GAP)

PHILLIPS: At 47, Hanks is a hopeful man, having learned at a young age not to be intimidated by circumstance. Tom was born July 9, 1956, to Amos and Janet Hanks, in the small town of Concord, California, just 30 minutes outside of San Francisco. When Tom was 5, his parents divorced. One night, Amos Hanks came home from work, put Tom and the two older kids in the truck and drove away. Tom's father remarried twice more. His mother three times.

HANKS: My dad worked in the restaurant business, which is -- you know, can be very itinerant to a degree. We simply moved around a lot. I think that by the time I was 10 I had lived in 10 different households with, I guess, 3 1/2 different sets of parents.

(LAUGHTER)

HANKS: So...

PHILLIPS: Hanks always refers to his nomadic childhood with humor.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did you ever want to run away from home as a kid?

HANKS: No, my home kept running away from me. (LAUGHTER)

HANKS: So I didn't have the same opportunity. I moved around so much I was never sure where my home was. The biggest goal I had to face every day was finding where we lived that day. That was a little tough. Are we in the apartment or the farmhouse today? I can't remember. Oh, no, there's buildings around, it must be the apartment.

PHILLIPS: Hanks says his roving boyhood was the perfect upbringing for an actor.

HANKS: There was also a lot of flying by the seat of your pants and not being intimidated by circumstances.

PHILLIPS: By high school, Hanks was flying high. He was dubbed "class cut-up" and won best actor for his revealing work in the musical "South Pacific." But it was a tragedy, Eugene O'Neill's barroom classic "The Iceman Cometh," that was Hank's defining moment. He had gone to see the play at Berkeley's Repertory Theater. He came out enthralled. He was hooked.

HANKS: It literally popped my eyes open to think that, wait, there's people that do this? This is what they do, not just for a living, for their life? This is the way they spend their time? This was like lightning for me.

PHILLIPS: A year later, Hanks was building sets as an intern for the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival in Cleveland. Three seasons playing minor roles gave Hanks his Equity card and a desire to give New York a try. Headed East with him, was Samantha Lewis, his first wife.

PETER CASTRO, ASST. MANAGING EDITOR, "PEOPLE": A lot of people don't know that Tom Hanks was married before and he met someone in the '70s, and while he was struggling as an actor and then they moved to Hell's Kitchen in New York. It was a walk-up tenement with roaches the size of little poodles, and it was really, really tough going.

PHILLIPS: After a long year of auditions, Hanks got his first movie role in the slasher film "He Knows You Are Alone."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "HE KNOWS YOU ARE ALONE")

HANKS: Most people do, actually, I mean, like to be scared. It's something primal, something basic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANKS: I read something off a piece of paper and the guy looks up from the desk and says, you'll be in the movie. That was $800, but it was a big deal.

From there I got on to a television show.

LEAH ROZEN, MOVIE CRITIC, "PEOPLE": "Bosom Buddies," it was sort of like "Some Like It Hot" brought to television. But Hanks stood out right away. You could tell the guy was funny.

HANKS: To me it's like looking at kinescopes of "The Honeymooners." I see me and Peter there. All we did was laugh through that whole thing.

PHILLIPS: The gender-bending sitcom with costar Peter Scolari lasted two seasons. And then in 1982, the wigs came off for good. For a year, Hanks pulled in little work, just some guest bits on sitcoms. On "Family Ties," he was a bright but unlucky corporate whiz kid.

Over on "Happy Days," Hanks played a former classmate of the Fonz. The "Happy Days" connection paid off. Director and former "Happy Days" star Ron Howard remembered Hanks and invited him to read for a supporting role in "Splash." That role ended up going to John Candy. Instead, Howard tapped Hanks for the lead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "SPLASH")

HANKS: I've been waiting for someone and when I find her, she's a fish.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RON HOWARD, DIRECTOR: He wasn't a movie star, but he was, you know, he was just so gifted. He came in, he auditioned and he won the role.

PHILLIPS: "Splash" cost $9 million to make and was a box office tsunami, bringing in some $60 million. Tom Hanks had finally found himself a permanent home: Hollywood.

Coming up next on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, Hanks hits big with "Big." But later, stumbles badly.

ROZEN: The poor man is starring with a dog and having to chase after the dog in his underwear.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: We now return to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS (voiceover): In 1988, Tom Hanks was hitting all the right notes with his performance in "Big." Hanks was endearing as a young boy trapped in a man's body.

ROZEN: "Big" was Hanks' first blockbuster movie. It was the film that absolutely put him on the map as one of Hollywood's leading men.

PHILLIPS: For Hanks, "Big" was big. It garnered him his first Academy Award nomination.

HANKS: I had never been to the Oscars before. So this was like the senior prom on acid.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Tom, where were you when you heard you were nominated, how did you get the news?

HANKS: I was sitting on the couch with my wife.

I was essentially nobody. But you get out and there's just kind of like -- there's like a riot is going on. It's the most glamorous, well-dressed riot you've ever seen.

Remember what the senior prom was like?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do.

HANKS: Oh, that was a rough one, boy. As soon as you put on the monkey suit, boy, all the nerves start jangling.

PHILLIPS: After his Academy Award nomination, Hanks seemed headed for superstardom. But his career suddenly stalled. Falling flat, the now classic cable viewing "Turner & Hooch," "Joe Versus the Volcano," and the box office flop "Bonfire of the Vanities." Then Hanks managed to hit one out of the park with "A League of Their Own."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP "A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN")

HANKS: All right, all right, all right, all right, all right, all right, all right! All right! All right! Time for the song and dance!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Hanks, a big Cleveland Indians fan, played the washed up tobacco-chewing manager as if a pennant depended on it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP "A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN")

HANKS: Are you crying? There's no crying! There's no crying in baseball!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: But the question remained, could the comic actor do drama?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP "PHILADELPHIA")

HANKS: You are worried, we don't have very much time left, now, aren't you?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: In the 1993 film "Philadelphia," the deadly serious Hanks, surprised both audiences and critics.

CASTRO: With "Philadelphia," it was the first hint that this guy is really special. We are working with something, you know, extremely rare.

PHILLIPS: "Philadelphia" gave Hanks his first Oscar win. But the victory was bittersweet.

HANKS: When I have to get up and really explain how I got here in the first place and why I'm standing up at that little plexiglass podium with this cool trophy in my hand, I know that I am standing there honestly because so many gay men have died of AIDS since 1976.

PHILLIPS: A year later, hanks introduced America to a simple man.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "FORREST GUMP")

HANKS: You want a chocolate?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: "Forrest Gump."

HANKS: There was no way to describe what the story was. And yet, as you read it, it read faster and faster and faster. And I just thought, we've bottled lightning here. Something is going on.

PHILLIPS: Something was going on. The movie turned into one of the biggest hits of 1994, and led to a nearly unprecedented honor. Hanks won his second Oscar for "Forrest Gump," becoming the first person in five decades to receive back-to-back Oscar awards for best actor.

HANKS: I think Forrest would say, so I went to the Academy Awards, again. And they gave me an Academy Award, again.

(LAUGHTER)

RITA WILSON, ACTOR & PRODUCER: I'm a child of the Oscars. I grew up in Hollywood, California. Went to Hollywood High School. We grew up watching the Oscars almost like it was a national holiday or something. And so being married to this guy who has won two back-to- back and has made history is completely surreal.

PHILLIPS: Actor and producer Rita Wilson has been at Hanks' side for more than a decade. Wilson played Hanks' love interest in the 1985 film "Volunteers."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP "VOLUNTEERS")

WILSON: What did they say?

HANKS: Move this log and I'll sleep with each one of you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Hanks' first marriage end ended in 1987 and a year later he and Wilson married. Hanks says it is Wilson who made him the man and the star he is today. HANKS: She is a delight, she is a great lady and she's my best friend. I have found a level of contentment and peace with my wife that I wish everybody could have.

WILSON: This is my good luck charm. He's my good luck charm first and foremost.

HANKS: I get the feeling that she just thinks I'm the greatest, smartest guy in the world.

WILSON: I think he looks like Roy Orbison.

HANKS: And I think you look like a pretty woman.

My wife is amazing, is he not?

PHILLIPS: by 1995, Hanks was a megastar. But still very much the same Mr. Nice Guy. Tom terrific was on a roll. After two Oscars, he leapt at the chance to play different characters, but always with his trademark heart and soul.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "CAST AWAY")

HANKS: Fire!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: In 2000, Hanks did the near impossible, co-starred with a volleyball and kept viewers riveted for two hours in the film "Cast Away."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "CAST AWAY")

HANK: You've got to love crab.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CASTRO: If that is not aura, if that is not just sheer like presence and power, I don't know what is. And I can't think of one other actor that could have pulled that off so well.

PHILLIPS: And in 2002, Mr. Nice Guy finally played his version of the bad guy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "ROAD TO PERDITION")

HANKS: Excuse me. I'm looking for Mr. McDougal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: A fundamentally decent hit man in the critically acclaimed "Road to Perdition."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "ROAD TO PERDITION")

HANKS: I'm making a withdrawal. (END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: When the story of Tom Hanks continues, Tom Hanks shoots for the moon and honors America's heroes.

SPIELBERG: He's got great American values, great family values. And the darn guy should run for president of the United States some day. He'd win.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS (voice-over): By the mid '90s, Tom Hanks was deep into a new phase of his career, honoring America's history and the human spirit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "APOLLO 13")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Liftoff. We have liftoff.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: One of his passions, the space race, was fueled by a life-long interest. Hanks can name every Apollo astronaut, every mission, every glitch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP "APOLLO 13")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: OK, now, let's everybody keep cool.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: As a boy growing up in the '60s, he wasn't the only kid in love with space travel, and galaxies far away.

HANKS: Even if it was just having a cool Fireball XL-5 lunch box, we all thought that it was -- we'd be living there. It was the natural order of things. What world history has told us you go to a place, you figure out how to get there, you figure out how to stay there and then you live there.

CASTRO: Astronauts were heroes to him. He would actually go home and in a four-foot pool, tie a brick around his ankle just so that he could be weightless and pretend to have a wrench and pretend to fix something as if he were working on a spaceship. That's how much he loved of astronauts.

(BEGIN VIDEO FROM)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Apollo 13 spacecraft has had a serious power supply malfunction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A late report says the space craft now is operating on battery power alone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Houston, we have a problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Hanks was 13 when his beloved astronauts faced tragedy aboard Apollo 13. He has never forgotten it.

HANKS: Milton Berle stopped a Cubs game.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MILTON BERLE, COMEDIAN: ... for a moment of prayer for the crewmen of the Apollo 13.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANKS: And I remember seeing banner headlines in "The San Francisco Chronicle."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here is a bulletin from ABC News.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANKS: I did run home from school to see Jules Bergman tell me what was going to go on.

PHILLIPS: In 1995, the boy who loved space starred in "Apollo 13", the retelling of the dramatic moon mission.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "APOLLO 13")

HANKS: Houston, I'm switch over, Quad C to Main A.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROZEN: It was tense.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "APOLLO 13")

HANKS: OK, Houston, fuel cell one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROZEN: And it was adventurous and it was exhilarating and Hanks held it all together as the commander on board.

PHILLIPS: Hanks journeyed further into as executive producer for HBO's greatly honored mini series "From the Earth to the Moon."

HANKS: That's one small step for man.

(LAUGHTER) HANKS: This is John Melfi, this is Michael Bostic, this is Tony To, this is Brian Grazer. These men all worked very, very hard on "From the Earth to the Moon." And that's why we're standing here right now.

PHILLIPS: With his chronicle of the U.S. space program, Hanks had grabbed on to a story with a moral center. That trend would be repeated with 1998's "Saving Private Ryan."

HANKS: You always hope your movies are somehow going to be weighty, that you know they are going to make some sort of difference in the national consciousness. And I think that "Saving Private Ryan" just was not only an important history lesson, but it was also I think an important emotional connection that an entire generation of people need with the previous generation.

PHILLIPS: In the grizzly and realistic war movie "Saving Private Ryan," Hanks plays Captain Miller, the tormented leader of a battle- weary squad. Steven Spielberg directed.

SPIELBERG: When I read the script I only could see Tom playing Captain Miller. I didn't have a second choice. I went right to Tom. Tom, you know, represents the best in all of us. Young people look at him as their father. And older people look at him as their squad leader, their Captain Miller. And we would go into battle with him leading us.

PHILLIPS: Hanks' battles raged on with another World War II epic, "Band of Brothers." a tribute to an elite rifle company that parachuted into France on D-Day morning.

Hanks, who co-produced the HBO series with Steven Spielberg had researched the project for years.

ROZEN: You just have a sense of a guy who has broader interests than how big is my trailer, and are they giving me only yellow M&Ms.

PHILLIPS: With his broad interest in history and in the spirit of paying tribute, Hanks became an active proponent for the national World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. He helped with publicity and has been a spokesman for fund-raising for the project. He helps dedicate the memorial this weekend as thousands of veterans descend on the National Mall.

HANKS: The generation ahead of us did not shirk for a moment from hard work, from the concept of sacrifice. "Miller time" was not in their consciousness. They understood if you wanted to get some things done, you put your head down and you worked on it every day until it was finished. And there was no better promise of America, in fact, than to be able to work on something you love until its conclusion.

PHILLIPS: Tom Hanks has made a career of working on something he loved, whether it's a story of AIDS discrimination or a simple southerner named Gump. For Hollywood's optimist, it is a love of heroics. Heroes of space. Heroes of war. And a love of telling the great American stories.

HANKS: You know, I've been able to do some work out there that I hope has been able to surprise folks, at the same time it's been able to amuse them and perhaps enlighten them at the same time it's been able to entertain them. So it doesn't seem like hard work, even though it is. It always seems like fun, even though sometimes it's not always. But it's a nice gig.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Tom Hanks' latest movie, "The Terminal", open on June 18.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAHAM: This crowd has been brought together...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Up next on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAHAM: People are more concerned with things than they are with the things of God.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: He's been dubbed America's preacher.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He became rapidly a friendly voice, a friendly contact, and at least on a few occasions, with Dwight Eisenhower, a friendly adviser.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: The evangelist who has prayed with presidents when we return.

CALLAWAY: Hello, everyone. I'm Catherine Callaway in Atlanta. And "People In The News" will return after we give you the top stories this afternoon

Thousands of people are gathering on the National Mall in Washington at this hour. They will honor the 16 million men and women who served in World War II. President Bush will speak at the dedication of the World War II Memorial and CNN's live coverage will begin at 2 o'clock Eastern time.

President Bush used his radio address this morning to urge Americans to stick with him on Iraq. He pledged that the U.S. would create lasting freedom there. Mr. Bush also tied the dedication of the World War II Memorial to the war against terrorism.

And dozens of aftershocks are shaking northern Iran after Friday's 6.3 magnitude quake. Iranian television says at least 45 people have been killed and 200 injured. The trembler was centered between Tehran and the Caspian Sea.

I'm Catherine Callaway. A full hour of news coming up at noon. Now, back to "People In The News."

PAULA ZAHN, ANCHOR, PEOPLE IN THE NEWS: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE ENWS.

The Reverend Billy Graham has been called America's pastor. He's the nation's leading spiritual voice and counselor for everyone from presidents to parishioners. Bruce Burkhart has our look at the evangelist who has made faith his life-long crusade.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REV. BILLY GRAHAM, ARCHIVE TAPE: Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner.

BRUCE BURKHART, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Look up evangelist in the dictionary and you'll find the word comes from a Greek phrase, meaning messenger of good news.

GRAHAM: God loves you. He receives you. He receives you. He will put your name in the book of life.

BURKHART: For nearly seven decades, Billy Graham has traveled the world, spreading the Good Word to the masses.

GRAHAM: This crowd has been brought together, I believe, by the spirit of God, using all of us working together.

GEORGE BEVERLY SHEA, CRUSADE SOLOIST: His great message is about the love of God. He'll say, as I leave this city, I want you to remember that God loves you. Very effective, you feel it.

BURKHART: He's written 25 books, counseled world leaders, and spread his passion in person to well over 200 million people. Even at age 85, Billy Graham continues to pack stadiums with a loyal and growing flock. But long before he became a spiritual beacon, little Billy Frank Graham was, well, spirited.

WILLIAM MARTIN, GRAHAM BIOGRAPHER: I'm sure that if he had been brought up today he would have been diagnosed as hyperactive. They said he was always just running and zooming.

BURKHART: Born on a brisk November night in 1918, the future evangelist grew up on his parents' dairy farm near Charlotte, North Carolina. Billy Frank was the oldest of four kids, two boys and two girls, with a full house, Morrow and Frank Graham, deftly reigned in their rambunctious son.

MARTIN: The first revival I know of his attending was when Billy Sunday, the great evangelist of that time came through, but he was only five years old. And his father took him and said if you make any noise, he'll call your name from the pulpit, and he was terrified. BURKHART: It was a later call from the pulpit, at a different crusade, that would change Billy's life forever. At the urging of one of his father's dairy workers, 16-year-old Billy went to a revival put on by Mordecai Ham (ph), an old school fire and brimstone evangelist. The three-month revival quickly became Billy's main nighttime activity for the autumn of '34.

CLIFF BORROWS, CRUSADE PROGRAM DIRECTOR: He got tired of Mordecai Ham (ph) pointing his finger and he thought he was pointing at him all the time. So he joined the choir to get away from him. But one night when he gave the invitation, Billy went forward and publicly made his commitment to Jesus Christ.

MARTIN: He didn't decide immediately that he was going to be a preacher, but the idea of going to a strong, conservative Bible college was appealing.

BURKHART: At 18, Billy headed off to Bob Jones College, a fundamentalist Bible school then located in Cleveland, Tennessee. The school's namesake imposed rigid standards.

MARTIN: The only dating that was allowed was a 15-minute visit, no touching, in a parlor with a chaperon.

BURKHART: Billy lasted barely a semester. During Christmas break he transferred to the Florida Bible Institute an unaccredited Christian college near Tampa.

MARTIN: It was at Florida Bible Institute where he really became a preacher. One of the features of that school was the big-name revivalists would come there and they would teach, give lectures.

BURKHART: After graduating in 1940, he was ordained a Baptist minister. His next move, Wheaton College, just outside of Chicago to pursue a bachelor's degree in anthropology.

SHEA: While he was a student at Wheaton, he spoke at various churches and it was quite evident that he was going to be quite a preacher.

GRAHAM: I believe that faith in god is a tremendous thing.

BURKHART: Billy Graham had found his calling. And late in his first semester, he also found a girlfriend. Ruth McCue Bell, daughter of medical missionaries that spent the first 16 years of her life in china. In Ruth, Billy found a partner whose energy matched his own. The couple wed after graduating from Wheaton.

ANNE GRAHAM LOTZ, DAUGHTER: If my father lost his focus, my mother would be right there to jerk him back. And she's an incredible woman. You wouldn't have Billy Graham without Ruth Graham, and I know that.

BURKHART: In 1943, Billy took a job as pastor at the Western Springs Baptist Church near Chicago. He also became part of a Christian radio show called "Songs in the Night." SHEA: It was 10:15 to 11:00 on Sunday nights. I did several solos. And he spoke so wonderfully.

GRAHAM: I don't care who you are. Your intellect alone will never get you into heaven.

BURKHART: Billy was an evangelist at heart. He yearned to travel to spread the Gospel to large crowds. After a year and a half in the church, Billy moved on to a new job with Youth For Christ.

MARTIN: The great advantage he got from Youth For Christ was it introduced him to church leaders all over America.

GRAHAM: The Word of God shall stand forever. You better come to Christ while you can.

BURKHART: Billy Graham was on a roll, setting up youth rallies around the country. His fast and furious sermons earned him the nickname God's machine gun.

MARK NOLL, PROF. OF CHRISTIAN HISTORY, WHEATON COLLEGE: He was hot. He was active in the pulpit. He was moving from side to side, and you knew what the Bible said when he said the Bible says.

BURKHART: Ahead on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, spreading the word with sermons, songs and a whole lot of media hype.

MARTIN: The tent was crawl with reporters and photographers and Billy didn't know what was going on.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: We now return to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Now, that war against Germany is won.

BURKHART: In the mid-20th century, America was buoyant with post-war euphoria, but heavy with Cold War fear; an ideal time for Billy Graham to take the world by storm.

GRAHAM: We find that people are more concerned with things than they are with the things of God.

BURKHART: Billy had a calling. There was no room for compromise.

GRAHAM: They are more concerns with pleasure, more concerned with money, more concerned with the things of life than they are the things of Almighty God.

BURKHART: In 1949, a group of Los Angeles Christians invited the fiery preacher to hold a revival.

SHEA: I always remember how excited we all were and how the people came and it was a huge tent. BARROWS: Canvas Cathedral, we had a marvelous time. We were scheduled for a crusade to last for three weeks.

BURKHART: But the masses continued to flood in. The tent finally came down after eight rousing weeks of sermon and song.

CHARLES COLSON, FORMER NIXON AIDE: It was a phenomenon. Fueled by his preaching, fueled by the Holy Spirit, fueled by the need of the moment.

BURKHART: Graham's message hit a chord. But there was one other reason for the strong turnout, courtesy of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst.

MARTIN: One Saturday evening he came and the tent was just crawling with reporters and photographers and Billy didn't know what was going on. And a reporter, he said, what's happening here? And a reporter showed him a piece of paper like something had been torn off a teletype machine or something. And it just had two words, "puff Graham".

BURKHART: With the phrase "puff Graham", Hearst was instructing his reporters to sing Graham's praises. Resulting media coverage thrust the evangelist into a whole different orbit.

MARTIN: Just before the crusade started, Russia had exploded an atomic bomb, so no longer was the United States the only atomic power. That was scary to people. Billy preached against Communism. He preached a strong moral message.

NOLL: Billy Graham was an anti-Communist, I think, because so many Americans of his sort, of his background, of his religion, were anti-Communist. What was unusual is the fervor and urgency with which he could combine his anti-Communist principles as a support for the proclamation for the Christian Gospel.

GRAHAM: Christians above all others should be concerned with social problems and social injustices.

BURKHART: As a spiritual leader, Graham believed he had God's blessing. As a preacher with a social agenda, he courted political figures, including the president of the United States.

MARTIN: He wrote letters imploring President Truman to send a word of greeting or to do something to put the presidential seal on what he was doing.

BURKHART: In 1950, Billy Graham and three of his aides in their Sunday best met with President Truman at the White House. The conversation was brief. The president good humored.

MARTIN: They started to leave and Billy said, could we have a word of prayer? And the president went, well, I guess it can't hurt.

BURKHART: Afterwards, reporters mobbed the four visitors. Unaccustomed to White House protocol, Billy described every detail of the meeting. He even mentioned that they prayed with the president.

BARROWS: And the reporters said, well, would you pray again right here for us. And it is something that -- we wouldn't do that now. We didn't do it for advertising purposes, but we knelt there and prayed on the White House lawn.

MARTIN: And that picture was in the newspapers the next day. And it angered the president. When Billy Graham came back to hold a crusade in Washington, President Truman said, I don't want to talk with him. He's just interested in publicity.

BURKHART: For Billy Graham that incident was a life lesson in the nuances of power. And 1952, he urged General Eisenhower to run for president. When the general took office, Billy made himself available as an unofficial adviser.

NOLL: He became rapidly a friendly voice, a friendly contact, and at least on a few occasions with Dwight Eisenhower, a friendly adviser on matters of state, as well as on matters of religion.

MARTIN: That's also when he got to know the vice president, Richard Nixon. Billy Graham came to be seen as the most famous preacher in America and also as the spokesman for Evangelical Christianity.

BURKHART: By 1954, the evangelical spokesman began to spread his message overseas. His first stop, Great Britain.

NOLL: From that time, Graham begins to moderate his political opinions. He begins to be more cautious about what he says, politically, and about social events. He begins to sharpen the focus upon his Christian message, even as he takes it further and further abroad in the world.

GRAHAM: We've come here at the invitation of these churches to help lead you in a crusade to help win men to Jesus Christ and to help promote the Kingdom of God in Britain.

BURKHART: In the States, Billy spent a summer preaching in New York. From Madison Square Garden to Yankee Stadium to Times Square, the meetings drew massive crowds and biting criticism from his own fold.

NOLL: There were conservative protestants who wrote him off as a theological modernist. Graham has never been a theological modernist, but he has been willing to cooperate with a broad range of churches.

BURKHART: If Billy's ministry established Christian common ground...

GRAHAM: This is your hour, God.

BURKHART: . . . it also kept the globetrotting preacher away from his most beloved congregation, his wife and their five children.

ANNE GRAHAM LOTZ, DAUGHTER: Being raised by a single parent and giving your father up when he spends more time with his secretary or a news reporter than he does with me, that hurts. He was our daddy. And we knew he preached and he went and served Jesus and so I was glad to let him go because of that.

BURKHART: Ahead on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, the seductive halls of power, and a controversial Oval Office conversation.

COLSON: The president of the United States sitting behind that desk, and a certain awe goes with it and even Billy Graham is influenced by that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

GRAHAM: The Old Testament looks forward to him. The New Testament looks back to him, but the center of the Scriptures is Christ.

BURKHART: By the early 1960s, Billy Graham was a man in full. A servant of God, a man of the people and de facto Chaplin for Washington's elite. At his first meeting with Lyndon Johnson, the two country boys bonded.

MARTIN: Supposed to be a five-minute meeting and turned into five hours. They traded stories and went swimming, naked. And Billy said, they didn't have swimsuits, you just went as you were.

BURKHART: After President Johnson left office, Billy continued to frequent the White House. He'd visit the man he called his old Quaker friend. Graham actively supported Richard Nixon in his earlier presidential race against John Kennedy. But where the evangelist saw friendship, President Nixon saw political cache.

MARTIN: The White House notes that I have seen, memoranda that -- where it's clear they were using him in any way they could to bring support, to bring his people. He was being used and he came to understand that. And that changed his relationship. He drew away from politics.

BURKHART: Relations with future administrations would be different, less political, more pastoral. Billy Graham set up a cautious space between his ministry and the Oval Office. All the while reaching out to bridge other divides.

NOLL: From the mid-'60s then on to the 1970s, Graham became interested in preaching behind what was then called the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Had to be a lot of bureaucracy to go through. One of the layers of bureaucracy was in the Catholic Church itself. And by that time, one of the key players in that Catholic bureaucracy with Carl Butia (ph), who was later chosen as Pope John Paul II.

GRAHAM: From the first time I ever saw him and I've seen him several times and talked with him, he put his hand on mine and he said, "We are brothers." COLSON: He's reached out across the confessional divide. He took a lot of heat when he did it, but he's right to do it, and many of us have followed that lead.

BURKHART: In 1982, the evangelist accepted an invitation to Moscow to speak at a state-sponsored summit of religious leaders. Critics said the Kremlin sanctioned the event and invited Graham simply to provide grist for Soviet propaganda.

COLSON: I don't believe you could get Billy Graham to do something that he didn't believe was what god wanted. So I think Billy takes the kind of punishment that he gets and the criticism he gets in stride.

GRAHAM: God said if you break my moral law, you're going to suffer and die.

BURKHART: In the late '80s and early '90s he preached in Communist China and even North Korea, twice.

GRAHAM: God loves you.

BURKHART: All the while Billy Graham kept up a vigorous presence at home.

GRAHAM: Shall we pray.

MARTIN: Before launching the first Gulf War, President Bush, at the time, invited Billy Graham to the White House and then asked him to lead the prayer service the next day with the Army brass.

BURKHART: Three days after the September 11th attacks, the second President Bush called on Graham to speak at the National Cathedral.

GRAHAM: We especially come together in this service to confess our need of God.

BURKHART: Graham provided soothing words of unity at the interfaith service, but months later, the evangelist's past rapport with President Nixon would come back to haunt him. In 2002, the National Archives released a taped Oval Office conversation laced with anti-Semitic slurs. President Nixon ranted about what he saw as Jewish media control, Graham joined in.

GRAHAM: This stranglehold has got to be broken or this country's going down the drain.

NIXON: You believe that?

GRAHAM: Yes, sir.

NIXON: Oh, boy. I can't ever say that, but I believe it.

GRAHAM: No, but if you get elected a second time, then we might be able to do something. COLSON: I've been in those -- Nixon was a very dominant personality. He could do that. And of course, he's president of the United States, sitting behind that desk. A certain awe goes with it and even Billy Graham have influenced by that.

BURKHART: Graham's comments sparked outrage. Jewish leaders expressed horror that a role model with high access would tolerate, let alone actually make such statements.

MARTIN: And he shouldn't have gone along with it, but it was much more a statement against a liberal politics and what they saw as anti-patriotic and the decline of popular culture. But he did implicate Jews involved in that.

BURKHART: In a written apology, Billy claimed no recollection of the exchange and said the recording did not reflect his true views. Despite the controversy, Billy received enduring support, especially from ministry insiders who have been with the evangelist all along.

MARTIN: Those people stayed with him 25, 40, 50 years.

BURKHART: After six decades in the pulpit, Billy Graham can still captivate audiences. But age is starting to take a toll.

GRAHAM: Excuse me, I am going to sit down. I apologize.

BURKHART: The evangelist his dealt with a host of health difficulties; 15 years ago Billy developed Parkinson's disease.

LOTZ: He's not been as energetic in the pulpit.

BURKHART: Over the past few years, Billy's son, Franklin, has taken administrative control of the ministry. When the time comes, he'll take his father's place on the platform.

FRANKLIN GRAHAM, BILLY GRAHAM'S SON: And it's a privilege to be able to welcome him to the platform tonight. Daddy?

BURKHART: Today, Billy Graham can reflect on all the speeches he's preached, all the lives he's touched. He's a man who has stayed true to his message of faith, hope and love.

LOTZ: He's never forgotten his upbringing, never forgotten who he is, and there's a beautiful humility about him that I think is a hallmark of someone who truly walks with God.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Reverend Graham recently fell and broke his pelvis at his home while recovering from hip replacement surgery. Nevertheless, he intends to move forward with his summer crusade in Kansas City on June 17th.

That's it for this edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. Coming up next week, the 60th Anniversary of D-Day. The dramatic story of the Normandy invasion from those who were there. I'm Paula Zahn. Thanks so much for joining us.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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