Pastor to Power: Billy Graham and the Presidents

Charles Gibson interviews former presidents, first ladies and Graham.

ByABC News
July 17, 2007, 2:08 PM

July 17, 2007 — -- He has preached to more people on more continents than anyone in the history of the planet. He's provided spiritual guidance to hundreds of millions and is one of the most revered religious figures in modern times.

The Rev. Billy Graham, the world's most famous evangelist, has also ministered privately to the world's most powerful men: the presidents of the United States.

In a special edition of "20/20," Charles Gibson explores the untold story of Billy Graham's ties to 11 U.S. administrations -- from Harry Truman to George W. Bush.

"Pastor to Power: Billy Graham and the Presidents" airs Friday, August 10, at 10 p.m., EDT, to coincide with the publication of "The Preacher and the Presidents" by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy of Time magazine.

In exclusive television interviews, former presidents and first ladies reflect on their relationship with Graham, sharing details about the private bonds forged in office that continue today.

These White House occupants provide key insight into the role of faith and the presidency and the man who was -- and is -- their counselor and confidant. Graham, in turn, shares his reflections about them.

In a remarkable, exclusive roundtable discussion with Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, the Rev. Graham, now 88, tells Gibson, "I thought of them as just wonderful human beings who were wonderful personal friends as I knew them, each one."

Graham has been privy to some of the most intimate details of the presidents' professional and personal lives, providing counsel on everything from war to the existence of heaven.

He prayed with George H.W. Bush as the first bombs of Desert Storm fell on Baghdad. "It's the toughest decision a president can make," Bush Sr. told Gibson during a recent visit to his home in Kennebunkport, Maine. "He alone can make it, or she alone. And you've got to hope like heck you're right."

Graham also helped Bush Sr. address questions about an afterlife. "I don't think the president is any different than anybody else when it comes to wonder," Bush Sr. told Gibson. "Especially as you get older I find myself thinking about it more and more: What's it going to be like?"