Billy Graham dies: Presidents, pastors and celebrities react
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.
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.
The Rev. Billy Graham addresses a crowd in Seattle during the Graham Crusade in 1976.(Associated Press)
Billy Graham delivers a sermon in downtown Los Angeles in 1949, part of a two-month tent revival that drew 350,000 people and launched his meteoric rise to world-class evangelist.(Los Angeles Times)
Graham’s 1949 “Canvas Cathedral” tent revival, at Hill Street and Washington Boulevard in Los Angeles. The event, and Graham, got a major boost from publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst.(Los Angeles Times)
A poster for the 1949 revival. That year marked a turning point for Graham.
Graham, second from right, on the White House lawn in 1950 with, from left, Jerry Bevan, Clifford Barrows and Grady Wilson. They were praying for President Truman and his handling of the Korean crisis.( UPI/Corbis-Bettmann)
Graham opens a 16-day crusade at the
Billy Graham preaches in London’s Trafalgar Square in 1954. During the second half of the 20th century, his crusades drew millions. Said one of Graham’s biographers: No one was more important in legitimizing evangelism.(Associated Press)
Graham and his wife, Ruth, arrive in London in May 1955.(Associated Press)
In Kottayam, India, during a 1956 tour of Asia.(Associated Press)
(AFP / Getty Images)
On the steps of Federal Hall during a 1957 lunchtime speech in New York’s financial district.(Associated Press)
Ruth and Billy Graham arrive in New York aboard the ocean liner Queen Elizabeth in March 1960 after a 2 1/2-month tour of Africa and the Middle East.(Associated Press)
In western Nigeria in 1960. According to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Assn., Graham preached to more than 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories.(Don Royle / Associated Press)
Graham sits with
The Grahams prepare to depart for London aboard the Queen Mary in May 1966.(Pictorial Parade / Getty Images)
President Nixon and First Lady Patricia Nixon with daughter Tricia and the Grahams after a White House church service in 1969.(Harvey Georges / Associated Press)
On July 4, 1970, Graham took his message to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.(David Fenton / Getty Images)
Graham was grand marshal of the Rose Parade in Pasadena in 1971.(Los Angeles Times)
Billy Graham and
Graham delivers the eulogy for former First Lady Pat Nixon at the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda in 1993.(Los Angeles Times)
The Rev. Billy Graham meets with Republican presidential candidate
In 2005, Billy Graham conducted his last crusade, drawing 90,000 people in New York.(Mario Tama / Getty Images)
Graham pauses during a sermon at the Metro Maryland Festival in Baltimore in July 2006.(Gail Burton / Associated Press)
Ruth and Billy Graham in an undated photo. Ruth Graham, who died in June 2007 at the age of 87, was buried in a plain pine coffin at the foot of a cross-shaped walkway at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C. Her husband will be buried next to her.(Billy Graham Evangelistic Assn.)
Graham speaks during a memorial service for his wife in Montreat, N.C., on June 16, 2007.(Chuck Burton / Associated Press)
The evangelist at the dedication of the Billy Graham Library in May 2007. Writer-critic Elaine Kendall called Graham “the preeminent prophet of this time, the generic clergyman. To millions of Americans, he was religion, the way Kleenex are tissue or Life Savers are mints.”(Chuck Burton / Associated Press)
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.”
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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