President George W. Bush: Billy Graham was 'influential to millions' during visit to Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, were in Charlotte for a short time Monday to pay their respects to the late Reverend Billy Graham.

Graham passed away last week at the age of 99. He will lie in repose until Tuesday night at the Billy Graham Library before he lies in honor Wednesday and Thursday in the Rotunda at the U.S. Capitol. A private funeral will be held Friday, March 2 on the library grounds.

Former President George W. Bush was in Charlotte Monday with his wife, Laura, to pay respects to Graham. A spokesman for Bush announced last week that the couple would not be able to attend the funeral Friday due to a "longstanding scheduling commitment."

Bush arrived at the Billy Graham Library Monday afternoon. He and Mrs. Bush were met by Rev. Franklin Graham and his wife.

After a private viewing of Rev. Billy Graham's casket, President Bush made a quick address to awaiting media.

"Laura and I are honored to be able to come pay our respects to the Graham family and more importantly to be able to say goodbye to a person who was influential in our lives and influential in the lives of millions," President Bush said. "If there is such a thing as a humble Shepard of the Lord, Billy Graham is that person. I'm unbelievably blessed to have met him."

During his visit Monday, President Bush confirmed that his father, former President George H. W. Bush would not be able to attend any memorial services for Rev. Graham.

"I also had the honor of bringing my mother and dad's greetings to Franklin Graham and the family," Bush said. "Billy Graham and Dad were great buddies and I know he wished he could come too, but he's not moving around much these days. But his spirit and his heart is here."

Last week, a spokesperson for Graham's family said President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and all former U.S. Presidents who are still living would be invited to the funeral.

Officials have confirmed that President Trump plans to attend Graham's funeral services on Friday. Former President Bill Clinton is expected to pay his respects to Reverend Billy Graham Tuesday in Charlotte.

Former President Barack Obama's office said he is not planning to attend memorial services for Rev. Graham this week. Obama tweeted last week after Graham's death that he was "a humble servant who prayed for so many" and who gave hope to generations.

Graham was a counselor to U.S. presidents of both parties from Dwight Eisenhower to George W. Bush. When the Billy Graham Museum and Library was dedicated in 2007 in Charlotte, North Carolina, George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton attended.

Reverend Franklin Graham addressed the media Monday just after Bush left from his visit.

"To the people of North Carolina, I want to say 'thank you'. Thank you for your kindness to my father," Graham said. "He would say 'this is too much about Billy Graham', he wouldn't be happy. He would want it to be more about the Lord Jesus Christ. So thank you very much and God bless you."

Reverend Graham said the 130 mile procession that brought his father from Asheville to Charlotte on Saturday is something he'll never forget.

"Every overpass. Every interchange – hundreds, in some places – thousands of people and I'm just so grateful for the support," Rev Franklin Graham said. "And of course we're all very grateful that President Bush came today with Laura. "That was a great honor."

George W. Bush credited Billy Graham with helping him transform himself from carousing oilman to born-again Christian family man.

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