SEVERE WX : Flash Flood Watch - Wind Advisory View Alerts
STREAMING NOW: Watch Now
CLOSINGS: View Closings

Billy Graham is remembered in what's his final crusade

The service comes after Trump and high-profile Washington leaders praised Graham this week at the US Capitol Rotunda.

Posted: Mar 2, 2018 11:16 AM

(CNN) -- Billy Graham, the Protestant preacher known as "America's pastor," is being remembered at a funeral Friday under a large white tent evoking his first "Canvas Cathedral" revival nearly 70 years ago.

More than 2,000 people are attending the private service for Graham, who was 99 when he died last week at his home in Montreat, North Carolina. Among the guests are President Donald Trump, the first lady and Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen.

After the service at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, the globetrotting preacher and spiritual confidant to American presidents will be buried beside his wife, Ruth, at the foot of the cross-shaped brick walkway in the library's Prayer Garden.

The noontime service, in many ways Graham's final crusade, is being streamed live.

"It was Mr. Graham's explicit intent that his funeral service reflect and reinforce the gospel message he preached for more than 60 years," said Mark DeMoss, a spokesman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

A tribute at the US Capitol

The service comes after Trump and high-profile Washington leaders praised Graham this week at the US Capitol Rotunda. The influential minister became only the fourth person to lie in honor there.

Graham's eldest son, Franklin, who now runs the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, was to deliver a funeral message Friday in addition to Graham's sister Jean Ford, his son Nelson and daughters Virginia Graham Tchividjian, Anne Graham Lotz and Ruth Graham McIntyre.

Graham's pastor and close friend Donald Wilton, and David Bruce, his executive assistant for more than two decades, were to speak at the burial.

A guiding light to generations of American evangelicals, Graham is said to have converted millions to Christianity. He evangelized to nearly 215 million people over six decades and prayed alongside US presidents from Harry Truman to Barack Obama.

US leaders who relied on the spiritual counsel of the man some called the "Protestant pope" included Lyndon B. Johnson, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Converting millions to Christianity

During his life, Graham reportedly persuaded more than 3 million people to commit their lives to Christianity. His preaching reached 185 of the world's 195 countries, according to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

News of Graham's death on February 21 elicited remembrances from Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, former Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush and many others.

Graham is credited with bringing the gospel message of tent-revival preachers into the modern media age by employing everything from telegrams to telephones to the internet in his lifelong quest to "win souls for Christ."

Along the way, he avoided the types of public scandals that befell other prominent preachers.

His missionary work began in 1944 at rallies for the Youth for Christ Campus Life ministry. Within a few years, he held the first of his famous tent crusades in downtown Los Angeles, where 350,000 people heard him preach over eight weeks. Those who heeded his message of salvation under the "Canvas Cathedral" included a radio disc jockey, a small-time mobster and an Olympic athlete.

Graham founded the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in 1950, launching a global ministry that even attracted followers from liberal Protestant congregations and Catholic parishes.

The preacher eventually took his crusades -- a mix of hymns, preaching and patriotic fervor -- to more than 80 countries, according to William Martin, a former historian at Rice University and the author of "A Prophet with Honor: The Billy Graham Story."

His "last crusade" in June 2005 in Queens, New York, drew 230,000 people.

Graham also delivered his message via a weekly Sunday radio program called "The Hour of Decision" and wrote an advice column, "My Answer." In 1956, he founded the magazine Christianity Today, a leading evangelical publication.

Born into a farming life

William Franklin Graham Jr. was born November 7, 1918. He was raised on a dairy farm near Charlotte. He said he made a personal commitment to God in 1934 after hearing an evangelist preach.

He graduated in 1940 from the Florida Bible Institute, now Trinity College. Graham was ordained that year by a Southern Baptist church in Florida.

Graham graduated in 1943 with a bachelor's degree in anthropology from Wheaton College in Illinois, where he met Ruth Bell, his future wife. She was the daughter of the Southern Presbyterian missionary and surgeon L. Nelson Bell.

The couple married in 1943 and later moved to Montreat. They had five children.

"I don't think I could have ever married anybody that would have been more helpful to my work and ministry than she has been," he told Larry King on CNN in 2005.

Ruth died in 2007 at the couple's home in Montreat.

"Ruth was my life partner, and we were called by God as a team," Graham said in her obituary. "No one else could have borne the load that she carried."

The pulpit brought him great political influence. He urged Dwight Eisenhower to run for president in 1952 and served as an unofficial adviser to the former general after he was elected. He also became close friends with President Lyndon Johnson and preached at the former president's funeral. President George W. Bush credits Graham for his transformation as a serious and committed evangelical.

But one political connection tarnished a largely scandal-free life. His association with President Richard Nixon led to embarrassment in March 2002. At the time, tapes of private conversations revealed the evangelist joining the President in making anti-Semitic remarks. Graham apologized.

While some critics have said Graham was not active enough during the civil rights movement, the preacher was credited with taking down ropes that separated blacks and whites during crusades in the early 1950s, according to historian Martin and Cliff Barrows, Graham's longtime music and program director for the Evangelistic Association.

During a crusade at New York's Madison Square Garden in 1957, Graham asked the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to deliver a prayer.

After Friday's service, Graham's pine plywood casket -- which was crafted by Louisiana prison inmates -- will be lowered into the ground next to his wife's grave. The couple had agreed to be buried side by side.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2018 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

Huntsville
Overcast
73° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 73°
Florence
Overcast
71° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 71°
Fayetteville
Broken Clouds
73° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 73°
Decatur
Broken Clouds
74° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 74°
Scottsboro
Broken Clouds
75° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 75°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 160380

Reported Deaths: 2713
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson23573377
Mobile16994316
Tuscaloosa10462140
Montgomery10352198
Madison942298
Shelby750465
Baldwin671269
Lee657165
Calhoun464761
Marshall442651
Etowah434151
Morgan422335
Houston419334
DeKalb349228
Elmore324653
St. Clair304042
Limestone293631
Walker283793
Talladega271437
Cullman255725
Lauderdale233842
Jackson219417
Autauga208231
Franklin206432
Colbert206032
Blount197225
Russell19603
Chilton190432
Dallas188127
Coffee180711
Dale178952
Covington175929
Escambia174931
Chambers136847
Clarke136617
Pike134514
Tallapoosa133987
Marion110331
Barbour10429
Marengo102622
Butler101241
Winston94013
Geneva9217
Lawrence86933
Pickens86918
Bibb85015
Randolph83516
Hale77730
Cherokee75614
Clay75312
Washington75112
Henry7236
Lowndes71628
Monroe65510
Bullock65017
Crenshaw60930
Perry5956
Fayette58913
Cleburne5739
Wilcox57012
Conecuh56513
Macon53920
Lamar5085
Sumter47421
Choctaw39312
Greene34616
Coosa2093
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 251774

Reported Deaths: 3207
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby36855568
Davidson32175341
Knox1295692
Rutherford12143115
Hamilton11952110
Williamson723556
Sumner6230112
Wilson478560
Putnam449957
Montgomery427558
Out of TN417134
Madison385180
Sullivan384648
Bradley364123
Washington361553
Sevier340823
Maury340738
Blount340436
Robertson264044
Hamblen249548
Tipton240623
Unassigned23306
Dyer228535
Gibson219249
Coffee194326
Hardeman190933
Greene182154
Obion181123
Trousdale17778
Bedford175320
Anderson172714
Dickson172219
Fayette170825
McMinn167337
Lawrence166520
Loudon165311
Cumberland162327
Wayne16067
Carter159834
Weakley157926
Jefferson157522
Monroe148629
Warren146110
Lauderdale145117
Henderson142626
Hardin141622
Macon135725
Roane13467
Franklin130522
Haywood130528
Hawkins123225
Overton123218
White120014
Johnson11667
Carroll115826
Marshall115611
McNairy114428
Rhea113018
Cocke109714
Cheatham107912
Campbell104412
Bledsoe10264
Smith100514
Lake9883
Giles98636
Fentress92611
Lincoln9253
Crockett87620
Hickman81015
Henry80912
Marion79410
DeKalb75117
Chester73515
Decatur66711
Grainger6174
Grundy57811
Union5493
Claiborne5346
Polk52713
Jackson4596
Humphreys4574
Unicoi4453
Morgan4447
Cannon4272
Benton4269
Houston42517
Lewis4225
Clay41015
Scott3945
Sequatchie3572
Stewart33811
Meigs3306
Perry3295
Pickett2769
Moore2712
Van Buren2102
Hancock1213

Community Events