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Bill Bright, 1921-2003

William R. "Bill" Bright (October 19, 1921 – July 19, 2003) was an American evangelist. The founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, he wrote The Four Spiritual Laws in 1965 and produced the Jesus Film in 1979.

Born in Coweta, Oklahoma, Bright described himself as being a "happy pagan" in his youth. He graduated from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma with an Economics degree. While in his early 20s he moved to Los Angeles, California and founded a company called Bright's California Confections.

In 1944, while attending the First Presbyterian Church, Hollywood, Bright became a Christian. He immediately began intensive Biblical studies which led him to graduate studies at Princeton and Fuller Theological Seminaries. It was while he was a student at Fuller that he felt what he regarded as the call of God to help fulfill Christ's Great Commission (Matthew 28:19) by sharing his faith, beginning with students at UCLA. This gave birth to the Campus Crusade for Christ movement.

During the decades to follow, Bill Bright and his wife, Vonette, remained faithful to this work, and the ministry expanded greatly. Campus Crusade now has more than 27,000 full-time staff and over 225,000 trained volunteer staff in 190 countries.

Bright held five honorary doctorate degrees: a Doctor of Laws from the Jeonbug National University of Korea, a Doctor of Divinity from John Brown University, a Doctor of Letters from Houghton Seminary, a Doctor of Divinity from the Los Angeles Bible College and Seminary, and a Doctor of Laws from Pepperdine University.

Bill Bright receives the Templeton Prize, 1996

In 1983, he chaired the National Committee for the National Year of the Bible. He was named the 1996 recipient of the $1.1 million Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. He donated the prize money to causes promoting the spiritual benefits of fasting and prayer.

He wrote more than 100 books and booklets, and thousands of articles and pamphlets that have been distributed in most major languages by the millions. He was a signer of the document Evangelicals and Catholics Together.

Bright was a co-founder of the Alliance Defense Fund which funds high profile litigation cases on behalf of Christians' First Amendment rights. He was also a co-signatory of the Land letter of 2002 which outlined a just war rationale for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, providing a theological underpinning for the invasion being planned by President George W. Bush.

Bright was survived by his wife Vonette, sons Zachary and Brad, and four grandchildren.

The Rev. Billy Graham released a statement on Bright's death: "He has carried a burden on his heart as few men that I've ever known - a burden for the evangelization of the world. He is a man whose sincerity and integrity and devotion to our Lord have been an inspiration and a blessing to me ever since the early days of my ministry."

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