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Forty-six years ago, a handsome, fiery young preacher from North Carolina drew 275,000 people to a three-week revival crusade in downtown Minneapolis and at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.

That same year - 1950 - he founded the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Minneapolis, where three years earlier he had taken over as president of Northwestern College, Bible School and Seminary.Billy Graham's ties with Minneapolis come full circle Wednesday when he begins his last crusade in the city that is still the headquarters of his ministry. It will also be one of the last crusades of his career.

Graham, 77, has Parkinson's disease and hasn't preached a sermon since December, when he fell in his New York hotel room and broke his ribs. He said he wasn't sure two weeks ago that he would be able to do the Minneapolis crusade. But doctors changed his medication "and now I feel just like I did 30 years ago."

Graham's association is also facing uncertainties as it prepares for a new millennium without the charismatic leader, nicknamed "God's Machine Gun" and "The Windmill" for his rapid-fire, arm-waving style of preaching.

"Is he slowing down? In some ways, yes," said John Corts, association president and chief operating officer. In September, Graham plans to hold a crusade in Charlotte, N.C., near his home in the mountains.

"Will it be the last crusade? I don't have any idea," Corts said. "Nobody does."

Graham himself said Monday: "I have no fear for the future. It's in God's hands. I don't spend one minute thinking about what will happen when I'm gone."

But the association is preparing for a transition. Graham has picked his oldest son, Franklin, to succeed him in the pulpit, and the ministry is already looking to the future.

"I think our activity will shift from personal appearances to more emphasis on technology," Corts said.

An example of the new direction was a worldwide Billy Graham TV special this spring. Corts said the special drew 2.5 billion viewers in more than 200 countries and produced requests for 45 million pieces of literature in 48 languages.

The association also plans to increase its use of satellite links to provide Graham's message to a larger audience. In five to 10 years, Graham sermons should be available on demand via satellite, Corts said.

"We think it may be possible to select various Billy Graham programs that you can access at your leisure when you have a particular need - for example, anxiety," Corts said.

The association will present a live youth night on the Internet this fall and down the road expects to have Graham microcassettes that will fit into wristwatches.

"Knowing we won't always have Billy Graham, we want to preserve and use as much of this as we can," he said.

With that in mind, Graham's speeches and crusades are being filmed and recorded. The association also is expanding the movie and magazine aspects of the ministry.

The board of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association elected Franklin Graham in November as first vice chairman, with the right to step in if his father becomes incapacitated.