Christian Evangelist And ‘America’s Pastor’ Billy Graham Dead At 99

A spokesperson for U.S. evangelist Billy Graham just confirmed reports that the preacher died at the age of 99 in his home on Wednesday.

As Reuters reports, Graham was seen as a major figure in the Christian community as throughout his career he “counseled presidents and preached to millions across the world from his native North Carolina to communist North Korea during his 70 years on the pulpit.”

Per the report:

Graham died at 8 a.m. EST (1300 GMT) at his home in Montreat, North Carolina, according to Jeremy Blume, a spokesman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

With his steely features and piercing blue eyes, Graham was a powerful figure when he preached in his prime, roaming the stage and hoisting a Bible as he declared Jesus Christ to be the only solution to humanity’s problems.

According to his ministry, he preached to more people than anyone else in history, reaching hundreds of millions of people either in person or via TV and satellite links.

Here’s more on Graham, from Washington Examiner:

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The man known as “America’s Pastor,” who grew up on a farm in North Carolina, was a counselor to a dozen U.S. presidents from Harry Truman to Barack Obama.

He was also an opponent of racial segregation, and was a close friend and ally of Martin Luther King Jr., who once said “had it not been for the ministry of my good friend Dr. Billy Graham, my work in the Civil Rights Movement would not have been as successful as it has been.”

Graham was known for saying, “My home is in Heaven. I’m just traveling through this world.”

Faith Wire reports Graham’s preaching “completely transformed” the lives of some celebrities including President Ronald Reagan, President Bill Clinton, Martin Luther King Jr., Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, singer Johnny Cash, singer Wynonna Judd, former CBS news anchor Dan Rather.

“It was through Billy Graham that I found myself praying even more than on a daily basis … and that in the position I held, that my prayers more and more were to give me the wisdom to make decisions that would serve God and be pleasing to Him,” former President Reagan once said, according to the report. Also, after the two reportedly met in 1953, they shared a lengthy friendship. After an assassination attempt on Reagan, Graham flew to DC to console the president and First Lady Nancy Reagan.

Fox News reports more on Graham’s early life:

William Franklin Graham Jr. was born Nov. 7, 1918 and raised on a dairy farm in Charlotte, N.C.

At 15, he made his personal commitment to Christ at a revival meeting in Charlotte. After attending Bob Jones College and the Florida Bible Institute, Graham was ordained a Southern Baptist clergyman in 1939.

In 1943, he graduated from Wheaton College, where he met fellow student Ruth McCue Bell, daughter of a medical missionary, who had spent the first 17 years of her life in China.

They married in August 1943 and had five children, 19 grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren.

Ruth Graham died in June 2007 after 64 years of marriage.

Graham vaulted to national prominence with his 1948 Los Angeles crusade, scheduled for three weeks and extended to eight.

Continued:

In the 1960s, he ardently opposed segregation, refusing to speak to segregated audiences.

“The ground at the foot of the cross is level,” he once said, “and it touches my heart when I see whites standing shoulder to shoulder with blacks at the cross.”

Graham also was noted for consulting and praying with every U.S. president from Dwight Eisenhower to Barack Obama, who in April 2010 visited Graham at his mountaintop cabin in North Carolina. He also met with President Harry Truman in what was initially a contentious meeting after Graham spoke to the press, but the two men later viewed the episode as a humorous incident.