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Billy Graham dies: Presidents, pastors and celebrities react

Billy Graham dies: Presidents, pastors and celebrities react
Former President Clinton, left, embraces Billy Graham as former Presidents George H.W. Bush, second from right, and Jimmy Carter look on during the 2007 dedication for the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C., (Chuck Burton / Associated Press)

Christians, conservatives, critics and others have commemorated religious leader Billy Graham, who died Wednesday at age 99.

The reverend brought evangelism into the religious mainstream, and his broad influence was seen in the tributes on social media that followed the news of his death. Graham preached to approximately 215 million people in 185 countries and advised about a dozen U.S. presidents.

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President Trump tweeted that "there was nobody like him" and that he would be "missed by Christians and all religions." Former President Obama remembered Graham as a "humble servant who prayed for so many — and who, with wisdom and grace, gave hope and guidance to generations of Americans."

Vice President Mike Pence christened Graham "one of the greatest Americans of the century" and praised his years of ministry that affected the lives of millions.

"Tirelessly spreading a message of fellowship and hope, he shaped the spiritual lives of tens of millions of people worldwide," former President Carter said in a statement, speaking for himself and his wife, Rosalynn Carter.

"Broad-minded, forgiving, and humble in his treatment of others, he exemplified the life of Jesus Christ by constantly reaching out for opportunities to serve. He had an enormous influence on my own spiritual life, and I was pleased to count Reverend Graham among my advisers and friends."

"I was privileged to have him as a personal friend," former President George H.W. Bush said in a statement obtained by KPRC-TV in Houston. "He would come to Maine to visit with Barbara and me, and he was a great sport. He loved going really fast in my boat. I guess you could say we had that in common. Then we would come home and talk about life."

Graham also mentored several of his children, he said, including former President George W. Bush.

Several conservative politicians and prominent Republicans joined in with their sentiments. Mike Huckabee in particular highlighted Graham's far reach.

"[It] didn't matter if he was talking to Presidents, Popes, Prime Ministers, or ordinary people he stuck to the stuff of a very simple message that we are sinners and Jesus Christ is our hope to be rescued from our sins," the former Arkansas governor said in a statement. "He would [be] criticized and sometimes held in contempt by the elites and academics for such a simple message, but while the critics came and went, Billy Graham never turned to the right or left, but kept his eye on the Cross."

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Meanwhile, Christians in sports and entertainment also fondly remembered the late crusader by quoting his words and recalling the effect he had on their lives.

However, his influence did not make him immune to critics and hecklers — actress Nia Vardalos, for one.

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