WE suspect The Northern Echo won’t be the only newspaper to have delved into its archives and today republished photographs of Billy Graham’s regular “crusades” to the UK.

At the peak of his powers he was a global celebrity who possessed a rock star’s ability to fill stadia. Graham specialised in the spectacular and the images we reproduce today of him speaking to huge audiences in the North-East will no doubt stir memories, and a few hearts.

It is difficult to explain to young people who have never heard of Graham what made him such a popular figure for much of the latter half of the 20th Century.

There wasn’t anyone like him then and there certainly isn’t now.

Graham’s standing as a religious leader was unusual. Unlike the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Pope, he spoke for neither a particular church or people. This gave him a broad appeal across the denominational divide.

He wasn’t to everybody’s taste and some people found his opinions abhorrent. A social conservative, he opposed same-sex marriage and abortion. No scandal of any kind undermined Graham’s own ministry, unlike a number of other high-profile evangelists. In 2002, however, his image was tainted with the release of recordings that President Nixon made three decades earlier. The two men were heard agreeing that liberal Jews controlled the media and were responsible for pornography.

Whether you shared his beliefs or not Graham was arguably the most famous preacher of his era and our coverage of his long life in today’s paper reflects his influence and legacy.