Reverend Billy Graham died today at his home in North Carolina. He was 99 years old.
He preached to 215 million souls in 185 countries in a career that spanned over 50 years.
“I despise all this attention on me. I wish we could publicize the meetings in some way in which my name were not used. I’m not trying to bring people to myself, nor am I trying to interest people in me. But I know that God has sent me out as a warrior on the five continents, to preach the gospel and I must continue until He gives me the signal that I must stop.”
NBC News reports: Graham served as a counselor or minister to a dozen U.S. presidents, and he preached to an estimated 215 million people in 185 countries around the world during his life. His message reached millions more as he maintained a near-constant presence on radio, television and the internet.
“Religion without a personal encounter with Jesus Christ will not save the soul, and it will not bring the peace that your soul longs for.”
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) February 21, 2018
“The Reverend Billy Graham may have been the world’s most successful Christian”
He also wrote more than two dozen books, including his 1997 memoir,”Just as I Am,” which was a New York Times bestseller.
Graham died just before 8 a.m. at his home in Montreat, North Carolina, surrounded by family, according to a spokesman for Samaritan’s Purse, the nondenominational evangelical Christian organization headed by Graham’s son Franklin.
The longtime evangelist appeared on Gallup’s list of most admired men and women 60 times since 1955 — every year the research company asked the question.
President Trump, who has a close relationship with Billy Graham’s son, Franklin Graham tweeted: “The GREAT Billy Graham is dead. 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
Born William Franklin Graham, “America’s pastor” came from modest means and grew up on a dairy farm in Charlotte, North Carolina. He found his spiritual path at 16, charmed by the traveling minister and temperance movement leader Mordecai Ham. Graham later moved to Florida and was ordained there in 1939.
He met his future wife, Ruth McCue Bell, while they attended Wheaton College, and they married in 1943. Together they would raise five children, and she would become a trusted adviser.
“When it comes to spiritual things, my wife has had the greatest influence on my ministry,” Graham said of Bell, who died in June 2007.
Graham was known for his sense of humor and for maintaining a nonpartisan Christian view, which earned him some criticism. But his dedication to ministry and unity is long evident and best remembered in his refusal to pay heed to segregation policies, forcing churches to integrate for his services.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. counted Graham as a close friend and ally, once remarking, “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.”
His son, Franklin Graham, took over his ministries, while Graham returned to a quiet life in North Carolina — not far from the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte.
“My home is in Heaven,” Graham habitually said. “I’m just traveling through this world.”