Interview: Inside the Nixon Years

Chuck Colson tells the inside story of the most controversial relationship in Graham’s life.
Billy Graham's relationship to President Richard Nixon was a tricky one, Charles Colson said in this exclusive interview before his death in 2012. As special counsel for Nixon before his own conversion to Christ, Colson often assisted in arranging meetings between Nixon and Graham. As a result, he witnessed interactions between the two men, which he shared with Christianity Today editor in chief Mark Galli.
In what type of settings would you have interacted with Billy Graham and President Nixon?
Graham came in to do church services on Sunday mornings. He also came in on a number of occasions just to visit with the president and stop in and see some of us at the various offices. On many occasions when I was with them, I would ask the president if he wanted me to leave and he generally said yes. I can think of few other people that Nixon ever spent time with totally alone without someone sitting with them. They had that kind of an intimate relationship; he trusted Billy completely.
What do you think of William Martin's assertion, "No president ever made such a conscious, calculating use of religion as a political instrument as did Richard Nixon"?
Part of my role as Nixon's assistant was to mobilize the religious community, find those disaffected Democrats and win them over. It was said at the time that it was the first time there had been this sort of concerted effort to get religious people into the White House.
I asked many religious leaders for access to their mailing lists. Even in 1972, it was pretty sophisticated to do this. We were aiming at a 20-million-voter database so we could identify by precincts. Graham had a list of evangelicals that was pure gold, and we asked him for it. His assistants checked …Continue reading…