Charlotte Elliott, who penned the lyrics to this hymn, was the daughter of Charles Elliott, a silk merchant and his wife, Eling Venn. Born in 1789 in Clapham, England, she also had two brothers, Henry Venn Elliott and Edward Bishop Elliott, who became Anglican priests.
Charlotte’s health declined early in life, and she became an invalid at age 19. Thirteen years later she wrote the verses to “Just as I Am.” Although she was raised in a Christian home, she was unsure of her relationship with Christ. A crisis of faith brought her assurance and from that experience came the lyrics. Many thousands of people have committed their lives to Christ during the playing of this hymn.
Billy Graham has stated that he became a Christian in 1934 at a revival meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, at which this hymn was played. It later became an altar call song in his crusades, and Graham used it in the title of his 1997 book Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham.
Although she was unwell for much of her life, Elliott wrote some 150 hymns, many poems, and for several years was the editor of the Christian Remembrancer, a high-church periodical that was published from 1819 to 1868. She died in 1871.
William Bradbury, the author of the tune most often associated with Just As I Am, was born in 1816 in York, Maine, and while still in his teens had established a reputation as a church organist. He later studied music in Germany, and started (with his brother) the Bradbury Piano Company, but he is best known as a composer and publisher of musical collections for choirs and schools. He wrote and compiled 59 books.
A number of his tunes are still used in many hymnals, including Jesus Loves Me, Sweet Hour of Prayer, Savior, Like A Shepherd Lead Us, and He Leadeth Me. He died in 1868 at the age of 51 at his home in Montclair, NJ, leaving a wife and five children.