The story behind Billy Graham's 2001 Fresno visit, which filled Bulldog Stadium

FRESNO, Calif. - Voices and hands raised, seats filled.

Not in celebration of a game, but a message. Given, by a white-haired Billy Graham.

The story starts a year earlier, when a group of pastors invited former Stadium Events, Facilities Coordinator Tom Kane to a meeting.

"They tell us, oh, Billy Graham has set a date to come to Fresno, California," Kane said. "And it's going to be in Bulldog Stadium." 

Kane checked the football schedule, telling then-campus police sergeant Rick Snow.

"He calls me and plops it on me, that, OK, Billy Graham's coming here, we got to secure this place," Snow said.

The preparation captured in this old news report, also featuring Kane.

Kane and Snow making a trip to the only other crusade that year, in Kentucky. To learn how to run such a massive event, from security, to parking.

"We're used to 40,000, but now we may go to, close to 100,000 here," Snow said. "Did our normal thing on steroids."

"It was the full community of Fresno involved in his crusade," Kane said.

Pastor Paul Binion of Westside Church of God was on the committee helping bring Graham to the valley, saying early-on, Graham made the effort to cross color-lines.

"The sincerity, that it just wasn't something to do, but he was sincere about trying to reach all people," Binion said.

Graham also a friend to civil rights legend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Binion says the two, now, reunited.

"I can see them now in heaven, just sitting there, maybe having coffee or cappuccino or something."

A man with a message, leaving a lasting impact in Fresno, and beyond.

"Still remember those things, one of the greatest events I've ever been involved in," Kane said.

"I would say the most iconic figure in Evangelical Christianity, was Billy Graham," Binion said. 

Kane says Graham even broke a toe when he was here, he stubbed it getting up during the night, but it didn't stop him from speaking.

Reporting in Fresno, Megan Rupe. 

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