Billy Graham’s Last Sibling, Jean Graham Ford, Passes Away

Jean Graham Ford and her brother, Billy Graham, greet one another at the dedication ceremony for the Library in 2007.
Jean Graham Ford and her brother, Billy Graham, greet one another at the dedication ceremony for the Library in 2007.

Billy Graham’s youngest sister, Jean Graham Ford, has died at the age of 91 in Charlotte, North Carolina. After a life lived faithfully for Jesus Christ, she is now in the presence of her Lord and Saviour.

Jean is survived by her husband of 70 years, Leighton Ford, along with two of their three children—Deborah and Kevin. The couple’s son, Sandy, passed away in 1981 at the age of 21 during heart surgery.

Jean Graham Ford with her brother (center) and husband, Leighton Ford (right), in 2004.
Jean Graham Ford with her brother (centre) and husband, Leighton Ford (right), in 2004.

“My Aunt Jean loved the Lord Jesus Christ, her family, her church and the work of God’s people around the world,” Franklin Graham posted on Facebook. “She, along with her husband Dr. Leighton Ford, was always a great encourager to my father throughout his entire ministry. He sought her counsel on many issues during his lifetime.”

Jean was the youngest of four children, born to Frank and Morrow Graham on July 17, 1932, in Charlotte.

Though nearly 14 years apart, Jean had a special relationship with her oldest brother, Billy Graham, whom she affectionately called “Billy Frank.”

“[With Billy Frank] being so much older, it was sort of like having a second parent,” she shared in 2010, eight years before her brother’s passing. “I’ve always just adored him and still do.”

Growing up on a dairy farm with her siblings was a delight for Jean. “I was a tomboy,” she explained. “I loved to be outdoors driving the tractor or the wagons, the mules, [or] playing with the goats.”

Life threw Jean a curveball at 11, though, when she contracted polio. A doctor told her parents she probably wouldn’t live through the night.

“I do remember this very clearly,” she said in 2020. “If I died that night, at that age, that would not have bothered me so much because I knew then I was going to Heaven.”

She eventually recovered and followed in Billy Graham’s footsteps to attend Wheaton College in Illinois.

During that time, Leighton Ford—a Youth for Christ leader—invited Billy Graham to speak at an evangelistic rally in Canada. Billy Graham, on the other hand, encouraged Leighton to apply at his alma mater and told him about his little sister.

Leighton did eventually attend Wheaton, where he met and fell in love with Jean. The couple was married on December 19, 1953, and Leighton went on to serve as an associate evangelist with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) for three decades.

The Graham family in 1962 (top left to right): Catherine Graham McElroy, Billy Graham, Melvin Graham, Jean Graham Ford, Morrow and Frank Graham (seated).

Leaning on God

Jean lived a life devoted to studying God’s Word and telling others about His free gift of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. For many years, she taught Bible studies and spoke at engagements around the world.

When she and Leighton tragically lost their oldest son, Sandy, 42 years ago, they chose to cling to their faith in God, even as they struggled with why He would let it happen.

“We made that decision that night,” she said in an interview, affirming that, “God is good. … Even when we weren’t feeling that way.”

>>Hear the entire interview with Jean Graham Ford.

About Heaven

On March 2, 2018, Jean spoke at Billy Graham’s funeral on the grounds of the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte.

When she heard the news of her brother’s death, Jean shared how she was reminded of an old hymn, “Heaven Came Down and Filled My Soul With Glory.”

“On February the 21st, Heaven came down and took my brother from me,” she said, addressing funeral attendees. “One day, Heaven will come down and take me. And I know what [my brother] would want me to say today is, ‘Heaven is coming again and would like to take you also.’”


>>Are you going to Heaven when you die? You can be sure.