The most well-known U.S. evangelist of modern times, Billy Graham, died at his home in Montreat, North Carolina Wednesday morning. The man who spent 70 years ministering was referred to as “America’s Pastor” and served as adviser to many U.S. Presidents. He was 99 years old.
Billy Graham was a Charlotte native of his beloved North Carolina, but his dedication to evangelism would take him all over the world, sometimes into places no other would dare to go. From communist North Korea, to behind the “Iron Curtain,” to Richard Nixon’s White House, the tall and stately man faced all of the challenges a life of ministry dealt.
According to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Graham preached to more people than anyone else in history. The number of individuals reached goes well into the hundreds of millions.
Graham used television and sports arenas, which made him an innovator in the world of evangelism. Hundreds of thousands would tune in to watch the man with the blazing blue eyes and sophisticated southern accent deliver his weekly Sunday address.
A spokeswoman said some 77 million saw him preach in person while nearly 215 million more watched Graham’s crusades on television or through satellite link-ups.
Graham began meeting with presidents during the tenure of Harry Truman. He played golf with Gerald Ford, took a dip in the White House pool with Lyndon Johnson, vacationed with George H.W. Bush and spent the night in the White House on Nixon’s first day in office.
Former President George W. Bush credited Graham for helping him rediscover his faith. In 2010, Barack Obama made the trip to the preacher’s log cabin home in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains when it was too difficult for Graham to travel.
Billy Graham’s White House ties to the were always viewed as beneficial to a presidency. His reputation was pristine as a preacher to the presidents, and the politicians bolstered their rankings with religiously inclined voters.
“Their personal lives – some of them – were difficult,” Graham, a registered Democrat, told Time magazine in 2007 of his relationships with Presidents.
“But I loved them all. I admired them all. I knew that they had burdens beyond anything I could ever know or understand.”
Graham did not hold back when speaking his mind on social and political issues of the day, this included his strong anti-communist sentiments. The preacher eventually refused to hold segregated revival meetings.
As he grew older, Graham said he moved to a milder political position in order to reach more people with his message.
Near his 95th birthday, the soldier of faith was honored with a rare trip away from his home. On Nov. 7, 2013, at a hotel in Asheville, North Carolina, 800 guests, including Republican politician Sarah Palin, business magnates Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump and Kathie Lee Gifford paid tribute his lifelong service to his calling.
Billy Graham died at approximately 8 a.m. EST at his home in Montreat, North Carolina, on Wednesday.
“My home is in Heaven. I’m just traveling through this world.”
– Billy Graham