By Dan Wooding, Founder of the ASSIST News Service
RALEIGH, NC – (ANS – August 23, 2015) – Dr. Danny Lotz, the son-in-law of the Rev. Billy Graham, has died at the age of 78, after being found unresponsive in the swimming pool of the Raleigh home he shared with his wife, evangelist Anne Graham Lotz.
A retired dentist, Danny Lotz, who was known to many as “God’s Gladiator,” died on Wednesday, August 19, according to Rex Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina, which issued a statement for the Lotz family.
The retired dentist was taken off life support two days after he was admitted to the hospital.
A statement on Anne Lotz’s Facebook page said the couple had been married for nearly 49 years and her husband suffered from heart disease that required five arterial stents.
According to a message on http://www.annegrahamlotz.org, Danny and Anne would have been married for forty-nine years on September 2nd.
“At the age of fifty Danny developed a severe case of Adult 1 diabetes. For over ten years following his retirement from dentistry he fought the ravages of the disease, earning him the beloved nickname, ‘God’s Gladiator,” said the message.
“He lost the sight in one eye and the hearing in one ear. His heart disease required five stents in his arteries. His renal failure dictated three days of dialysis each week, five hours each time. And yet he never complained, never slowed down, never gave up, never stopped investing in the lives of others.”
I had the privilege of spending a week in New York City with Danny Lotz as part of the Festival of Life NYC ’02 outreach led by former Ground Zero chaplain, Mike MacIntosh, and held on the second anniversary of the devastating 9/11 attack. Danny was also one of the speakers at some of the events.
As we travelled around his home city New York – he was born in Flushing, Long Island – he shared with me details of his life with Anne Graham Lotz, Billy Graham’s second daughter who her father has called “the best preacher in the family.”
Lotz, a gentle giant, told me that he still could still hardly believe that the “shy” girl he first met and fell in love with back in 1964 is now the dynamic preacher who addresses thousands in arenas across the United States as she aims call people to a personal relationship with God through His Word.
At 6’6”, this former college basketball star who played on the North Carolina team that won the national championship in 1957, said, “My father, who ran the Ascension Baptist Church in the Bronx, was also a street-corner preacher in New York City until the Lord called him home at the age of 84.
“A lot of the weekends, we would go with him to the Bowery Mission where my brothers and I would play the trumpet and trombones and my Dad would share the Good News.”
Danny Lotz got a full basketball scholarship to the University of North Carolina and said, “I was honored to be on that team. It was during the next year that I broke my leg, and ended my career. I couldn’t understand why this happen at the time, but because of that I heard about a group called The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). And that resulted in my meeting Anne for the first time.
“Through this organization, I ministered on campus and around the state and then years later, at an FCA conference in 1964, I first met Anne. She was dating a high school fellow and her folks – Dr. Billy and Ruth Graham – lived close to where the FCA conference was to take place. Anne came over to hear the speakers, and the first time I saw her, that’s all it took for me. I fell head over heels in love with her.
“She was a gorgeous 5 feet 9 inches tall, blonde with blue eyes. Her dad got the word out that he wanted her to date one of the college guys. Anne was 17 at the time and I was 28 so you can imagine the difference.”
He said that Anne agreed to come on a date with him for the second night of the conference and when he arrived at the Graham’s mountaintop home in Montreat, North Carolina, Mrs. Ruth Graham told him, “Be sure to bring her home by 9:30 p.m.”
Lotz went on to say, “So I brought her home by that time and Anne went to bed and I stayed and talked with her mother until about midnight.
“On my second date, the family knew I was serious, so they invited a lot of family members for a big steak-out at their home. I arrived and talked with everybody and then I went outside where Dr. Graham was cooking the steaks. When I got there, the whole place was in flames and the steaks were all burned. Mr. Graham said, ‘Let’s just scrape off the charcoal. The steaks will be good any way.’ I believe that was his last cooking job that I’ve ever seen. He was definitely a better preacher than he was a cook.”
Danny Lotz had by now joined the US Air Force and was stationed in New Mexico and continued, “I wrote her every day for 15 days and I never heard from her. Then I finally heard from her. She and her family had been on vacation and so that’s why she hadn’t responded. Then I came and visited her. There was an Air Force plane coming to North Carolina so I hitched a ride and dated her again in July.
“Then, that September I got out of the service and her father was having a crusade in Denver so I went there and met Anne. I drove her to Estes Park, which was an hour from Denver. However, when she got there she got deathly sick. Her temperature was 104 degrees, so I rushed her back to the hotel and her Dad got her a doctor. We found out that she had mononucleosis, which is a rare blood disease that you get when you are over-stressed. So instead of going off to Wheaton College, she had to go back home to North Carolina and I moved to Raleigh to set up my dental practice.
“Every Friday night, I drove to Montreat and saw Anne for a few minutes. Her mother would cook me a big steak and I would spend the weekend with them. I did that for a year. At the end of that year we got engaged, and I was asked to go to London for the Billy Graham crusade at Earls Court. I spent two months in the UK doing basketball clinics around England and sharing my testimony. I was rooming with Charlie Riggs, who was then the head of counseling and Loren Sanny, who was the head of Navigators. I actually played for the English basketball team once against the Belgians and we beat them. But it was wonderful to meet the young people and invite them to the crusade.”
The couple was married Sept. 2, 1966, at the little chapel at the Graham house in Montreat. “I was 29 at the time and Anne was 18, so you can imagine the phone calls that their family got.
“I have to say that Anne at 18, was as mature as any Christian girl at 50 years of age because of the way she was brought up and grounded in the scriptures. My father and Dr. Graham did the ceremony together. Then we went to Palma Valley, California, for our honeymoon. We flew to California for a week, then came back and set up our little house in Raleigh, North Carolina.”
The couple then set up house in Raleigh, N.C., and began their family. Anne began her speaking career not long after in a rather unlikely way.
Dan told me about Anne’s first-ever speaking engagement: “Anne was very shy when we first married and never spoke in public,” he said. “I was asked by a pastor if Anne and I would do a Valentine’s Banquet. This was months away and I didn’t think of asking Anne. A couple of days before we were due to speak, her picture was in the paper, which said that Anne Graham Lotz would speak. Well, Anne called me at the office. She was so upset and said she wouldn’t do it. We had a bad evening that night. She was all nervous and stayed up most of the night. We were each supposed to share for 15 minutes that night. She spoke first, and half-an-hour later I had to get up and tap her on the shoulder to say, ‘Anne, I’m supposed to speak too.’
“From then on, Anne has never looked back.”
From 1976-1988, he said, Anne taught Bible Study Fellowship, a weekly Bible study class in Raleigh, N.C. of over 500 women. Her original class multiplied until today there are 10 other classes of similar size in Raleigh.
“Then about,” he said at the time, “eight years ago, Anne was getting so many calls to speak around the country that she just felt like the Lord was calling her to go out to preach and teach,” he said. “She started speaking mainly to women’s meetings in churches around the country in churches. She would be invited to speak at churches and she said she would come if they also would invite the Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians and the Assemblies of God. It got bigger and she felt so burdened that women needed to be grounded in God’s Word that years ago she started these revivals and it was with Jill Briscoe and Kay Arthur. Then she added Fernando Ortega, who sings, ‘Just Give Me Jesus,’ as the musician. She has had about 10 of these meetings. She’s already had one in Raleigh. Next month will be Cleveland, then Denver, then Tampa and Charlotte.”
He went on to say, “I am in awe when I see her speak, because this is my shy little wife and here she is out proclaiming the Good News in such an anointed way.”
Anne established AnGeL Ministries, an independent non-profit corporation, in 1988. AnGeL Ministries is based in Raleigh, N.C. and is committed to giving out messages of Biblical exposition so that God’s Word is personal and relevant to ordinary people. The ministry’s name, derived from the initials of Anne Graham Lotz (AGL), is especially fitting as an angel’s Biblical role is to go only where the Lord sends and to proclaim only the Word of the Lord. AnGeL Ministries serves as the umbrella organization for the diverse ministry of Anne Graham Lotz – including her many books, tapes and speaking engagements as well as special events like “Just Give Me Jesus” and “A Passionate Pursuit.”
When asked if he ever got jealous of Anne, Lotz replied firmly, “No. Having been brought up in the family of a street-corner preacher, you just praise the Lord for whoever gives out the Good News and for Anne to be called. She is so gifted. I give little talks, but you know that she is so gifted and the Lord has anointed her for this ministry.”
Anne Graham’s Lotz website can be found at http://www.angelministries.org/ .
Now Danny Lotz has gone home to his reward, but I’ll never forget that week in New York with him as he revealed about his wonderful marriage to Anne Graham Lotz. He was truly a humble and fascinating person.
Photo captions: 1) Danny Lotz and his wife, Anne Graham Lotz (holding Long Leaf Pine citation). (Special to The Herald-Sun/Dan Way). 2) Danny Lotz fires a left-handed hook shot in this UNC archival photo taken at Woollen Gym circa 1956. (UNC file photo) 3) Billy Graham with Anne at his home. 4) The couple together at their home. 4) Dan Wooding chats with Billy and Ruth Graham at their Montreat, North Carolina, home.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 74, is an award-winning journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 52 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS). He is also the author of some 45 books. Dan began his journalistic career in 1968 on Billy Graham’s British newspaper, The Christian, and in later years was part of Mr. Graham’s media team in Russia, Germany and Puerto Rico.
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