CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Former televangelist Jim Bakker was in Charlotte Tuesday to pay respects to the late Reverend Billy Graham. Bakker was seen at the Billy Graham Library Tuesday afternoon as Graham lie in state after he passed away last Wednesday at the age of 99.
In the 1970s and '80s, Bakker co-hosted "The PTL Club" with then-wife Tammy.
The pair built Heritage USA, a 2,300-acre Christian theme park and resort that drew nearly 6 million visitors at its peak in 1986.
Everything came tumbling down in 1987, amid revelations that Bakker had had a 15-minute tryst and paid hush money to a young church secretary named Jessica Hahn. He later served in federal prison for nearly five years for PTL-related fraud.
It was during that time in prison Bakker says Rev. Billy Graham made a huge impact on his life.
"Billy Graham came into my prison when I was there. He wrapped his arms around me when I was a mess, I was cleaning toilets at that moment and I was at a very low moment in my life," Bakker recalled as he choked back tears. "Billy Graham walked in and threw his arms around me and said 'Jim, I love you'."
Bakker, now 78, said the late Rev. Graham's wife, Ruth, would invite him into their home after he got out of prison.
"And Ruth Graham is so amazing it would take me hours to tell. As I got out of prison, I was at the Graham home, I was at the church with Ruth Graham and all," he said. "But they represented Jesus Christ to somebody who the world said was fallen and would never preach again."
"But the Grahams are real, in person. Franklin, the whole Graham family loved me and I had to come and say goodbye, but he's in Heaven," Bakker said. "We're gonna walk with him someday."
Bakker currently broadcasts "The Jim Bakker Show" from a Christian compound deep in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri.