54: Cheryl Ladd

54: Cheryl Ladd

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Billy Graham & Me

• 54 •
CHERYL LADD

Actress, author, star of Charlie’s Angels television series; Hubert H. Humphrey Humanitarian Award recipient

In 1988, my husband Brian and I attended the Republican National Convention in New Orleans as guests of George H. W. Bush and his wife Barbara. We’d become friends over the years and had been their guests in the White House. Needless to say, we felt very privileged to be at the convention seated in Mrs. Bush’s private box. As we sat quietly, absorbing the atmosphere, waiting for the event to begin, we became aware of a powerful presence behind us. Unable to ignore the feeling, we glanced at each other and turned in unison to determine the source. We were surprised and thrilled to see Muhammad Ali smiling back at us. We managed to retain some measure of composure until we noticed the man seated on his right. It was none other than Billy Graham.

The feeling was beyond description, almost overwhelming. In that moment we found ourselves in the presence of three of the world’s most powerful people. Together, these men represented the very best humanity had to offer: the commanding strength of a world leader, the almost superhuman physicality and charm of the champ, and then the spiritual grace and healing warmth of the Reverend Billy Graham. For a second we wondered if we’d been transported.

Although I had been in the presence of celebrities many times, from my years on Charlie’s Angels to meeting and ultimately portraying Princess Grace Kelly, I was pinching myself, hardly believing the power of this special moment.

When we finally got the nerve to turn back around, Muhammad smiled at my husband and said, “Hey, ain’t you that Magnum, P.I. guy?”

Brian responded, “No, champ. I wish I was, but no. I’m Brian Russell. My only claim to fame is my wife here. This is Cheryl Ladd.” This caused the champ to howl with laughter. Billy smiled knowingly.

We all introduced ourselves, laughing and sharing in a truly delightful and unforgettable moment.

Billy Graham is a spiritual giant. A true guide to God’s grace. He is tremendously tender and Muhammad is the same. I could see that they were close and enjoyed being with each other. Billy Graham beams love. I wish that everyone could have a one-on-one experience with him.

Growing up in South Dakota, I was a churchgoer, though my dad met God in the deep woods. He was an outdoorsman, and he communicated with God on the land, where he had his own way of being with the Lord. My mother went to church with my sister and me occasionally, but left attendance at Sunday school up to us. We in fact always wanted to go, so it was a large part of our life growing up. That’s how Billy Graham came to play a significant role in my childhood. We faithfully watched his televised crusades, as well as films about him and his life. So, you know what I mean when I say that meeting Billy Graham was an absolute thrill.

Brian and I were awed by him. Through the grace of God, we had come to be in the same room with three extraordinary men, showered with a multitude of unexpected blessings. George H. W. Bush, the future President, was now speaking on the stage in front of us, while these two extraordinary men sat behind us. My husband and I are both believers, and we were acutely aware of God’s grace in that very special moment.

I did get to see Billy a few other times. He always remembered me and always greeted me with that same warmth and the power of the Lord’s love.

Our meeting in New Orleans remains one of my most precious memories. Being with Billy Graham was a gift. What extraordinary gentleness, compassion and humility he possesses and has freely shared with the world!

I feel blessed each time I recall that day.

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