Written By: Olivia B. Waxman, Liz Ronk

It was at his home at Montreat, N.C., that the Rev. Billy Graham, “the father of modern Christian evangelism” and “spiritual advisor” to U.S. Presidents died in 2018 at the age of 99.

In 1955, LIFE photographed him when that 200-acre mountainside home was being built among the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina, near the farm he grew up on in Charlotte. It was a sacred place for him and only fitting that a man who would preach about God’s presence in nature would recharge in such a place between his crusades worldwide and media appearances.

These photos, most of which were never published in LIFE magazine, show outtakes of the Baptist minister at home. They’re images that Ed Clark had taken for a special issue that came out during the Christmas week that year, at a time when Graham was “the most famous U.S. religious leader,” as the magazine put it. The feature, “Resting Up to Save Souls” (Dec. 26, 1955), showed the “boyish-looking” 37-year-old seeking “seclusion” with his wife Ruth (pictured below, from left) who “knows the Bible better than he does” and children Franklin, Virginia, Anne and Ruth, plus the family dog.

In addition to reading the Bible while relaxing on a hammock, and going on hikes with his family, he played golf with “an unorthodox crosshand grip,” as the magazine observed. Graham told LIFE that the Lord won’t let him play the game well, because if He did, “I’d spend too much time at it.”

Billy Graham in his home office, N. Carolina, 1955.

Billy Graham in his home office, North Carolina, 1955

Ed Clark The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Billy Graham at home in North Carolina, 1955.

Billy Graham at home in North Carolina, 1955.

Ed Clark The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

The Rev. Billy Graham beside his swimming pool, 1955.

The Rev. Billy Graham beside his swimming pool, 1955.

Ed Clark The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Billy Graham with his wife and daughter, 1955.

Billy Graham with his wife and daughter, 1955.

Ed Clark The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Billy Graham, his son, Franklin, and his wife, Ruth, in a car, 1955.

Billy Graham, his son, Franklin, and his wife, Ruth, in a car, 1955.

Ed Clark The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Billy Graham with his son, Franklin, in 1955.

Billy Graham with his son, Franklin, in 1955.

Ed Clark The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Billy Graham and family at a meal, 1955.

The Rev. Billy Graham and family at a meal, 1955.

Ed Clark The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Ruth Graham, wife of the Rev. Billy Graham, and daughter, 1955.

Ruth Graham, wife of the Rev. Billy Graham, and daughter, 1955.

Ed Clark The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

The Rev. Billy Graham and family, 1955.

The Rev. Billy Graham and family, 1955.

Ed Clark The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

The Rev. Billy Graham with his son, Franklin, and the family dog in 1955.

The Rev. Billy Graham with his son, Franklin, and the family dog in 1955.

Ed Clark The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

The Rev. Billy Graham relaxes at home, 1955.

The Rev. Billy Graham relaxes at home, 1955.

Ed Clark The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Tags

More Like This

people

The Champ, The Beatles and a Tearful Girl: The Photography of Bob Gomel

people

The ‘Queen of Soul’ in ’90’s Fashion

people

What Meets the Eye: The Photography of Co Rentmeester

people

Barack Obama at 60: His Life, His Work, His Living Legacy

people

Before She Was Catwoman: Julie Newmar in LIFE

people

Van Halen: The Dave Years, the Sammy Years, the Life, the Music, and the Joy