U.S. Presidents from Jimmy Carter to Donald Trump have led the chorus of tributes on Wednesday to the influential evangelist Billy Graham, a spiritual advisor to a dozen American leaders who has died at age 99.
Graham, who was a confidant to presidents; a guiding light to generations of American evangelicals and a globe-trotting preacher who converted millions to Christianity, died on Wednesday, his spokesman confirmed to newsmen.
Graham passed away at his home in Montreat, North Carolina, spokesman Jeremy Blume said.
With his steely features and piercing blue eyes, Graham was a powerful figure when he preached in his prime, roaming the stage and hoisting a Bible as he declared Jesus Christ to be the only solution to humanity’s problems.
“The GREAT Billy Graham is dead,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “There was nobody like him! He will be missed by Christians and all religions. A very special man.”
Tall and handsome, Graham, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, cut a charismatic figure as an evangelical preacher whose huge tent meetings and rallies found audiences on radio and television.
“Billy Graham was America’s pastor,” said former president George H. W. Bush.
“His faith in Christ and his totally honest evangelical spirit inspired people across the country and around the world. I think Billy touched the hearts of not only Christians, but people of all faiths, because he was such a good man.”
“I was privileged to have him as a personal friend,” Mr. Bush added. “He was a mentor to several of my children, including the former president of the United States. We will miss our good friend forever.”
The Southern Baptist preacher was close to the Bush family, and former president George W. Bush once said that a private meeting with Graham in 1985 helped him quit drinking.
Statement on the death of Reverend Billy Graham. pic.twitter.com/jR8YgfgaXq
— Gov. Greg Abbott (@GovAbbott) February 21, 2018
While he preached to a long line of U.S. presidents, from Harry Truman to Barack Obama, according to his biographers Graham found only Carter to match him in dedication to his faith.
In a tribute, the former Democratic president spoke of Graham’s “enormous influence on my own spiritual life.”
“Tirelessly spreading a message of fellowship and hope, he shaped the spiritual lives of tens of millions of people worldwide,” Carter said.
“Broad-minded, forgiving, and humble in his treatment of others, he exemplified the life of Jesus Christ by constantly reaching out for opportunities to serve.”
“I was pleased to count Reverend Graham among my advisers and friends,” Carter said.
Graham was recently portrayed as a spiritual adviser to the young Queen Elizabeth II in the recent Netflix television series “The Crown.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, the spiritual leader of the world’s Anglicans, said Graham “stood as an exemplar to generation upon generation of modern Christians.”
“When it comes to a living and lasting influence upon the worldwide church he can have few equals: for he introduced person after person to Jesus Christ.
“There are countless numbers who began their journey of faith because of Dr Graham,” Mr. Welby said. “The debt owed by the global church to him is immeasurable and inexpressible.”
See more tributes below:
Billy Graham was a humble servant who prayed for so many – and who, with wisdom and grace, gave hope and guidance to generations of Americans.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) February 21, 2018
The GREAT Billy Graham is dead. There was nobody like him! He will be missed by Christians and all religions. A very special man.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 21, 2018
A great man of God, Billy Graham has gone to Heaven.
Heaven is richer and earth poorer as a result. Billy preached the Gospel to more people then any person who has ever lived.
He was the same man privately that he was publicly.
Billy was the most Christ- like man I have ever met
— Greg Laurie (@greglaurie) February 21, 2018
Saddened by the loss of Evangelist Billy Graham. He led an impactful life, touching so many people with his spiritual teachings. He will be deeply missed.
— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) February 21, 2018
Billy Graham was the best preacher of our modern age and helped lead countless people to Christ. His classic sermons still air every week on TBN and many are available online. Turn off the trash and turn on the Truth. His work will continue to shine a light for generations.
— Mark Dice (@MarkDice) February 21, 2018