Rowland, guest speaker at the monthly Bradley Cleveland Ministerial Association meeting, shared his faith and updated area ministers on plans to formally dedicate Billy Graham Avenue.
A portion of 15th Street running through the university’s campus was renamed in 2008 to honor of the world evangelist who attended college at what was then Bob Jones College. That particular street was chosen because it dead ends at Medlin Hall, where Graham lived.
The mayor said it has taken so long because the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is particular about which naming opportunities it chooses to sanction.
“I contacted the legal counsel of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and told them what I had in mind,” Rowland said. “It took one year — exactly one year — before I received a letter I was so glad to see, because they sanctioned the naming of the street and offered any help that they could.”
Rowland said it took another year to get a member of the family to come to Cleveland, but Virginia Graham will be here for the dedication which will hopefully be sometime in February.
The ceremony will include a meal and a brief program in the Science and Math Complex at the corner of North Ocoee Street and Billy Graham Avenue. The program will conclude with a ribbon cutting on the street.
“I would love to have the Voices of Lee or Lee Singers to sing ‘Just as I Am’ the Billy Graham way, so that will happen too,” the mayor said. “We are waiting for Miss Graham to let us know a convenient time for her.”
The mayor said when he discovered Graham had lived in Cleveland, he began a research project to learn about his stay here.
“I found that he left Bob Jones College because he said he felt disconnected from what he termed the school’s rigid doctrine,” Rowland said. “He then transferred to Florida Bible Institute.
“While in Cleveland, he did have a job for a short time as a shoe salesman at Apler’s Shoe Store downtown. I can just picture him walking along Ocoee Street to the shoe store,” he said.
Graham supposedly preached his first sermons at Charleston Methodist Church on a Sunday afternoon and his second sermon was delivered at Antioch Baptist Church. The mayor said he was unsure of its location because every county has an Antioch Baptist Church, but it’s believed to have been in Bradley County.
The mayor said Dr. Lamar Vest, president of the American Bible Society, once relayed to him that upon learning the news of the street to be named in his honor here, Graham said, “I wish I was able to travel to Cleveland, Tennessee, where I got my call to the ministry.”