Should Charlotte brace for all surviving US presidents to be at Billy Graham funeral?

Should Charlotte brace for all surviving US presidents to be at Billy Graham funeral?

CHARLOTTE, NC (Mark Price/The Charlotte Observer) - Three surviving U.S. presidents were there when the Billy Graham Library was dedicated in Charlotte in 2007, so it makes sense that as many or more might be here for Graham's memorials and funeral next week.

Donald Trump, Jimmy Carter, George Bush, George H.W. Bush, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton have all released statements in the past day lauding celebrated evangelist.

The question is how many will be at the funeral, and the impact the added security will have on south Charlotte Friday, March 2. The private funeral starts at noon and President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and all former presidents have been invited.

Adding to the city's traffic issues: The CIAA Tournament is being held in uptown Charlotte March 1-3. It's estimated more than 100,000 people will attend tournament events.

Charlotteans may not know until the last minute which among the former presidents plans to attend, along with other key congressional figures.

Graham will lie in public repose Monday and Tuesday, Feb. 26 and 27, at his family homestead at the Billy Graham Library, which means traffic issues will engulf Interstate 77 at the Billy Graham Boulevard/Woodlawn exit, as well as Interstate 85. Shuttle buses will take people from parking lots at the Operation Christmas Child warehouse, 7100 Forest Point Blvd. in south Charlotte, and from the Charlotte Valet Business Lot 2 at 5601 Wilkinson Blvd. at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

When and if the current and former presidents arrive, traffic issues may also overtake Charlotte Douglas International Airport and adjacent National Guard sites.

Charlotte experienced a bit of this before, when the city hosted the Democratic National Convention, and it included closed roads, last minute detours and security vehicles parked on interstate overpasses and exits.

The Rev. Billy Graham has long been known as the confidante and clergyman to America's presidents. President Donald Trump is a close friend of Graham's son, evangelist Franklin Graham.

Trump pinned a tweet at the top of his Twitter page Wednesday, noting Graham "will be missed by Christians and all religions" and George H.W. Bush sent out a statement calling Graham "America's pastor."

Bill Clinton called Graham "one of the most important religious leaders in American history."

"I will never forget the first time I saw him, 60 years ago in Little Rock, during the school integration struggle," Clinton said in a statement. "He filled a football stadium with a fully integrated audience, reminding them that we all come before God as equals, both in our imperfection and our absolute claim to amazing grace...Billy has finished his long good race, leaving our world a better place and claiming his place in glory."