Pat McCrory: I'm 'selfishly heartbroken' over passing of Billy Graham

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Former Charlotte mayor and North Carolina governor Pat McCrory says he is heartbroken to hear that Reverend Billy Graham passed away Wednesday morning.

According to officials, William Franklin "Billy" Graham Jr. died from natural causes at his family home in Montreat, NC, just outside Asheville. He turned 99 back in November.

"I'm selfishly heartbroken, along with millions of people not only here in North Carolina but throughout the world, McCrory said during an interview on WBT Radio Wednesday. "Reverend Graham meant so much to us because he was so humble, he was so modest."

Several medical issues caused Billy Graham's health to deteriorate within the last decade. He was in the hospital for nearly two weeks in 2007 for internal bleeding related to prostate cancer, RNN reports. Macular degeneration, hearing loss and a series of hospitalizations for respiratory infections in 2013 all took their toll on Graham.

A year ago, Franklin Graham sat down with WBTV and discussed his father's health. "Communication is very difficult with him. It's just hard at this point in life," Franklin Graham said in February 2017. "As a result of not being able to understand what people are saying, he just kind of shuts down."

"He never lost that strength of message, even as his voice started to leave him," McCrory said.

During the radio show, McCrory recounted a story when he visited Graham, at his home in Montreat, while McCrory was still governor of North Carolina.

"When I walked in Reverend Graham had a large fire going and he was sitting in front of the fireplace and he called me in and said 'Sit down Governor'," McCrory recalled. "And I sat down next to him and he was in his wheelchair and had an oxygen tank helping him breathe, but he still had that voice, that calmness, that serenity that I was so fortunate to get to listen to."

He said Rev. Graham called over the state troopers, who were with McCrory, and wanted to speak with them.

"They were in shock [...] that they were being given the honor to meet Billy Graham and he thought nothing of it," McCrory said. "His natural instinct was to bypass the governor and say "no, I want to talk to the state troopers" and he sat down and prayed with the state troopers."

"Everyone was equal in his eyes because everyone is equal in God's kingdom," McCrory added. "He said the most beautiful prayer and I wish I could have tape recorded it, but it would have been kind of tacky. But I wish those words were with me now, and his voice was with me."

McCrory said that he is glad there are videos of Graham's words and strength that will "be with us always."

"He didn't like attention on himself, he liked attention on the word of God. And in this day and age of everyone wanting to be famous for 15 minutes, he was the example of modest and wisdom," McCrory said. "I was honored to get to know him and call him a friend. And I'm going to miss him but I also know he's now where he wanted to be - with God and with his wife."

Copyright 2018 WBTV. All rights reserved.