Following his death Wednesday at age 99, tributes poured in from around the world for the Rev. Billy Graham – and plans were announced for the funeral of the man known as “America’s Pastor.”
Graham’s body was moved from his home in Montreat, N.C., to Asheville, where a funeral home was handling the arrangements.
“I have one message: that Jesus Christ came, he died on a cross, he rose again, and he asked us to repent of our sins and receive him by faith as Lord and Savior, and if we do, we have forgiveness of all of our sins.” —Billy Graham https://t.co/LqbepCmHHZ
— Billy Graham (@BillyGraham) February 21, 2018
The body will be taken from Asheville to Charlotte on Saturday in a procession expected to take 3 ½ hours and ending at the Billy Graham Museum and Library, said Mark DeMoss, spokesman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
It will lie in repose Monday and Tuesday in the Charlotte house where Graham grew up, which was moved from its original location to the grounds of the Graham library.
A private funeral for Graham will be held Friday, March 2, in a tent at the library site and he will be buried next to his wife there, DeMoss said. Ruth Graham, to whom the reverend was married more than 60 years, died at age 87 in 2007.
Invitations to the funeral will be extended to President Donald Trump and former presidents, DeMoss said.
The president tweeted condolences Wednesday, soon after the news of Graham’s death was reported.
“The GREAT Billy Graham is dead,” the president wrote. “There was nobody like him! He will be missed by Christians and all religions. A very special man.”
The GREAT Billy Graham is dead. There was nobody like him! He will be missed by Christians and all religions. A very special man.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 21, 2018
Former President Barack Obama said Graham “gave hope and guidance to generations of Americans.”
Graham was a counselor to U.S. presidents of both parties, from Dwight Eisenhower to George W. Bush. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor.
When the Billy Graham Museum and Library was dedicated in 2007 in Charlotte, George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton attended.
More than anyone else, Graham built evangelicalism into a force that rivaled liberal Protestantism and Roman Catholicism in the U.S. His leadership summits and crusades in more than 185 countries and territories forged powerful global links among conservative Christians and threw a lifeline to believers in the communist bloc.
A tall, striking man with thick, swept-back hair, stark blue eyes and a firm jaw, Graham was a commanding presence in the pulpit, with a powerful baritone voice.
“The Bible says,” was his catchphrase. His unquestioning belief in Scripture turned the Gospel into a “rapier” in his hands, he said.
Graham reached multitudes around the globe through public appearances and his pioneering use of prime-time telecasts, network radio, daily newspaper columns, evangelistic films and satellite TV hookups.
By his final crusade in 2005 in New York City, he had preached in person to more than 210 million people worldwide. No evangelist is expected to have his level of influence again.
“William Franklin Graham Jr. can safely be regarded as the best who ever lived at what he did,” said William Martin, author of the Graham biography “A Prophet With Honor.”
Graham had suffered from cancer, pneumonia and other ailments.
DeMoss said Graham spent his final months in and out of consciousness. He said Graham didn’t take any phone calls or entertain guests.
Graham died at 7:46 a.m. Wednesday at his home, where only an attending nurse was present, DeMoss said.
Both the nurse and Graham’s longtime personal physician, Dr. Lucian Rice, who arrived about 20 minutes later, said it was “a peaceful passing,” DeMoss said.