Former president Bill Clinton pays respects to Rev. Billy Graham

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Former president Bill Clinton paid respect to the late Reverend Billy Graham in Charlotte Tuesday morning.

"While we all believe that it's faith plus nothing, he wasn't a faith plus nothing. He lived. He showed his faith by his works," Mr. Clinton said of Rev. Graham.

Mr. Clinton arrived shortly after 11:30 a.m. Tuesday morning. Rev. Franklin Graham greeted him at the sidewalk.

The two walked inside the Graham Family Homeplace where Rev. Billy Graham's body lies in repose.

Clinton spent about 40 minutes inside, paying his respect.

After spending some time talking with Graham's son, Franklin Graham, and praying with him over the casket, Clinton talked to reporters about his history and memories with Graham.

"When I was 11 years old, 60 years ago my Sundays school teacher took me and another couple of kids in my class to War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, Arkansas for a Billy Graham crusade," Clinton said.

The former president recounted that the year before Little Rock Central High School had been integrated. The state was in turmoil and the white citizens council wanted Billy Graham to preach to a segregated audience

"And he said that God didn't see us that way and if that was gonna be the rules he would have to cancel the crusade and tell people why he did it and they folded quickly," Clinton told reporters.

Clinton remembered a packed stadium listening to Rev. Graham and said, "when he gave the invitation, hundreds and hundreds of people came down in tears together. It had a profound effect on me."

Years later, when Clinton was Governor of Arkansas, he took Billy Graham to meet his ill pastor.

"Tiny little room of a Baptist preacher with a modest income," Clinton said. "I listened to him to talk to that old friend about faith and life and death. It was also one of the most memorable experiences of my life."

During his years as president, Mr. Clinton and Rev. Graham had meetings in the White House. Clinton says people should not criticize Billy Graham for being the pastor to presidents.

"Don't forget. Those of us who are Christians believe in a God of second chances and the politicians need those as well as anybody else. So you gotta cut him a little slack for trying to give a willing ear and an open heart without regard to his political preferences," Mr. Clinton said.

"I think he was a profoundly good man who conveyed a simple belief that we can claim kinship with God by asking. For me, every time I think about him I'll be 11 again. Having no idea how my life would turn out, grateful that in that one moment when it would have been easier not to do it, he actually lived his faith," Clinton added.

Related: Viewings and visit by the Bushes begin week of mourning

Graham's body is lying in repose at his childhood home on the grounds of the library. Clinton arrived at the Graham Family Homeplace around 11:30 a.m.

The Charlotte-born evangelist passed away at the age of 99 on Wednesday, Feb. 21.

Nearly 6,000 people visited the site on Monday and many more are expected to visit Tuesday. His casket will remain closed.

After Tuesday, Graham's body will be taken to the U.S. Capitol where he will be the first private citizen to lie in honor there since Rosa Parks in 2005. Rev. Graham's body will lie in honor for Wednesday and Thursday.

RELATED: Rev. Billy Graham to lie in honor in U.S. Capitol Rotunda ahead of Charlotte burial

Graham's funeral service starts at noon on Friday, March 2. The funeral will be private and open only to invited guests. Burial will follow.

Clinton, along with former presidents George H. W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, and then president George W. Bush, were all present for the dedication of the Billy Graham Library in 2007.

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