Remembering Rev. Billy Graham: A look back at the life of ‘America’s Pastor’

Remembering Rev. Billy Graham: A look back at the life of ‘America’s Pastor’

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte-born evangelist Reverend William Franklin “Billy” Graham Jr. died two years ago of natural causes at his family home in Montreat, NC, just outside Asheville. He was 99 years old.

As the news spread across the world that Reverend Billy Graham passed away back in 2018, hundreds of people showed up at the Billy Graham Library to pay their respects.

“I have followed Billy Graham since I was a little girl. In the 70′s and 80′s we watched him on T.V. He was an icon. He taught people to live biblically not politically, not hate but just to love God,” said Patricia Laraway told WBTV News.

Reverend Graham was laid to rest next to his beloved wife, Ruth Graham, in Charlotte shortly after passing away on February, 21, 2018.

His grave marker is a field stone that reads: Billy Graham, November 7, 1918 - February 21, 2018, Preacher of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ John 14:8.

Graham’s funeral service was held under a huge white tent set up in the parking lot in front of the Billy Graham Library. The service was private, open only to 2,300 invited guests.

"On February twenty-first, heaven came down," Graham's sister, Jean Ford, said. "They took my brother from me."

Graham’s children, Virginia “Gigi” Graham, Anne Graham Lotz, Ruth Graham, Nelson “Ned” Graham, and Franklin Graham spoke about their father, each with a different message.

WATCH THE FULL SERVICE: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Rev. Graham’s son, Franklin, said told WBTV News his father was laid to rest with a bible next to him in his casket.

“We felt this was symbolic since he stood behind a pulpit most of his life preaching the Gospel,” Franklin Graham said.

That casket was built by inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary. At Rev. Graham’s request, Angola inmates built his plywood casket back in 2006, WAFB reported. Rev. Graham’s son said the casket was made by convicted murderers.

In 2017, 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.”

RELATED: Franklin Graham talks about his last days with Billy Graham and what he misses most

"He's lived a long life," Franklin Graham said. "He spoke to more people than any other person in history - I'm talking about live, you know, in a live audience."

WBTV archives hold decades of Rev. Billy Graham history

On the day of his death, U.S. leaders paid their respects to Rev. Graham on social media.

“The GREAT Billy Graham is dead,” tweeted President Donald Trump. “There was nobody like him! He will be missed by Christians and all religions. A very special man.”

Former President Barack Obama called Graham “a humble servant who prayed for so many - and who, with wisdom and grace, gave hope and guidance to generations of Americans.”

President Donald Trump and Vice President Pence attended the funeral, along with North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, former Governor Pat McCrory, and Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles.

Some of Graham's guests included Sarah Palin, Joel Osteen, Steve Curtis, Rudy Giuliani, Kathie L Gifford, Jerry Richardson, Rick Warren and Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

Related: Dignitaries pay respects to ‘America’s Pastor’ Rev. Billy Graham

Reverend Graham was buried beside his late wife, Ruth, whose grave is at the foot of the cross-shaped brick walkway in the Library's Prayer Garden.

Ruth Bell Graham passed away in 2007.

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