Christian evangelist Billy Graham, who had long suffered from cancer, pneumonia and other ailments, died on Wednesday at his North Carolina home. He was 99.
Dubbed America’s pastor, Billy Graham transformed American religious life through his religious activism. He was known to be a confidant to American presidents from Gen. Dwight Eisenhower to George W Bush.
In 1983, Graham received America’s highest civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
President Donald Trump 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.”
Graham reached millions of his followers through prime-time telecasts, network radio, columns in newspapers and even feature films.
Graham was born in North Carolina on his family’s dairy farm on November 7, 1918. He rejected his fundamentalist background which expected true Bible-believers to stay clear of Christians with even the most minor differences over Scripture and joined the New Evangelicalism movement.
“The ecumenical movement has broadened my viewpoint and I recognise now that God has his people in all churches,” he said in the early 1950s.
In 1957, he said, “I intend to go anywhere, sponsored by anybody, to preach the Gospel of Christ.”
“The Bible says,” quickly became his catchphrase. His unquestioning belief in Scripture turned the Gospel into a “rapier” in his hands, he said.
He had last preached in person to more than 210 million people worldwide in 2005 in New York City. No evangelist is expected to attain his level of influence again.
At an event dedicated to his service to society, President Bill Clinton said: “When he prays with you in the Oval Office or upstairs in the White House, you feel he’s praying for you, not the president.”
WITH AP INPUTS
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