Community And Legislative Leaders Remember Rev. Billy Graham

Community And Legislative Leaders Remember Rev. Billy Graham

5:14pm Feb 21, 2018
Former Presidents, George H.W. Bush, left, Bill Clinton, second left, and Jimmy Carter, right, join Franklin Graham, second right, as they pose with Billy Graham, center, in front of the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, May 31, 2007 during the dedication ceremony. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Across North Carolina, people are remembering the Rev. Billy Graham. He passed away Wednesday morning at the age of 99 at his home in Montreat. Local community members say his impact in the state and around the world will not be forgotten.

He was known as "America’s Pastor" and counseled U.S. Presidents. For decades, the evangelical leader called people to Christ and spoke to millions around the world about his spiritual message.

Ed Wilson first met Graham when he visited Wake Forest University in the early 1960s. Wilson was an administrator and was invited to a luncheon for him on campus. He says he was struck by Graham's presence.

“But I was also impressed by his humility and his genuine interest in other people and by his not claiming a kind of special place at the table for himself but instead wanting to talk with other people and finding out about them,” says Wilson. “I could understand why for so many years he was so famous and so respected and loved."

Graham spent his childhood on a dairy farm in Charlotte and became a pastor at a young age. He certainly had charisma, but it was the way that he spread his message that was unique.

He used radio, television, newspaper and even satellite to reach people. It spread like wildfire. Since his ministry began in 1947, Graham conducted hundreds of religious events in stadiums and other large venues all over the world. They were known as Billy Graham’s crusades, and he did these for years until he retired in 2005.

Bill Leonard is with the Divinity School at Wake Forest University and has written several articles about Graham.

“He personified a kind of collective Protestant identity that is in my view unique to other preachers,” says Leonard. “There are many famous preachers in America, many famous evangelists before and after him, but Graham in many ways, through his use of technology and longevity, retains this sense of national chaplaincy.”

U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx grew up watching Graham’s crusades on television and reading his columns in the newspaper. Graham's son Franklin resides in her home district and runs the nonprofit Samaritan’s Purse in Watauga County. Foxx says she’s saddened by the loss but knows Graham’s impact on the state will live on for years to come.

“His work, his influence were worldwide, and his legacy will live on in his sermons - thank goodness many of them were recorded - his library in Charlotte and through the Billy Graham ministries, which are being continued by his family and other faithful Christians,” says Foxx.

Local churches are also paying tribute. Gary Chapman is a pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. He mourns the loss of Graham, who he had met before. He says he admires him for his integrity and style.

“He didn’t just teach about the teachings of Christ, but he called for a decision on the part of the individual. You come just as you are. You know his song was 'Just As I Am.' We come to Christ, we don’t have to clean up, we don’t have to change things, we come to him and if we have to make changes, he will empower us to make changes,” says Chapman. “He brought churches of all denominations together.”

Calvary is among many congregations across North Carolina that will honor Graham during their services on Sunday.

A private funeral is planned at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte.

*Follow WFDD's Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news

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