Given my love for preachers and crime lords--and given my love for any overlap between the two--it was only a matter of time before I wrote something about the brief but remarkable relationship between the Southern Baptist evangelist Billy Graham and the Los Angeles gangster Mickey Cohen in the 1950s.
Here are two outsized figures.
Graham was arguably the most successful Christian preacher of all time (growing up Southern Baptist, I kind of thought of him as our Pope). To put that in perspective, Billy Graham proselytized to more people than anyone else in history, and perhaps more than any other single individual, he shaped the public perception of Protestantism in the later part of the 20th century and moved fundamentalism into the American mainstream.
Mickey Cohen, on the other hand, was the most feared crime boss on the West Coast in the 1950s. In the years since his death, his infamy has only grown. The subject of books and documentaries and feature films, Cohen is an almost mythical figure today.
I have a new piece that looks the strange moment in time when Graham and Cohen were on such friendly terms that Graham was telling the press than Mickey should be a preacher and Cohen was telling the press that he and Billy were going to vacation together at a dude ranch.
Go to Criminal Element to check out God And The Gangster.