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Ruth Graham: Fire your ‘yes’ men

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in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

When the Rev. Billy Graham first asked Ruth Bell to marry him, she said no.

Then she changed her mind and said yes. Apparently, that was the last time.

Ruth Graham, who died in June, often did her preacher husband a favor by advising him against things.
  • After a rousing 1949 crusade in Los Angeles, Hollywood studios wanted the evangelist to make a movie. He talked to Ruth and said no.

  • In 1954, NBC reportedly offered Billy big bucks, something near $1 million, to host a TV show opposite Arthur Godfrey on CBS. Ruth advised against it, and he said no.

  • When Republicans tried to lure him into running for public office, his refusal stemmed largely from Ruth’s advice.

  • President Nixon wanted to make Billy ambassador to Israel. He said no.

  • When President Johnson asked Billy for advice on a running mate, Ruth kicked her husband under the table.

  • Life magazine asked him to write an article endorsing Nixon. Ruth said no, and so did he. She later said she thought the Watergate scandal stemmed from Nixon’s weakness for “yes” men. “When anyone becomes so famous, so important, that no one dares to disagree, they’re in a dangerous position,” she said.
Not that she took herself too seriously. A sign over her bedroom door read, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve been.”

— Adapted from “Ruth Bell Graham, The Soul Mate of the Preacher,” Laura Sessions Stepp, The Washington Post.

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