Rev Billy Graham, who transformed American religious life through his preaching and activism, becoming a counselor to presidents and the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history, died on Wednesday. He was 99.
Graham, who had long suffered from cancer, pneumonia and other ailments, died at his home in North Carolina, according to spokesman Mark DeMoss.
More than anyone else, Graham built evangelicalism into a force that rivaled liberal Protestantism and Roman Catholicism in the United States. His leadership summits and crusades in more than 185 countries and territories forged powerful global links among conservative Christians, and he was a strong critic of communism on his visits to eastern Europe.
Dubbed “America’s pastor,” he was a confidant to US presidents from Dwight Eisenhower to George W Bush.
In a tweet, Donald Trump said: “The GREAT Billy Graham is dead. There was nobody like him! He will be missed by Christians and all religions. A very special man.”
In 1983, President Reagan gave Graham the presidential medal of freedom, America’s highest civilian honor. When the Billy Graham Museum and Library was dedicated in 2007 in Charlotte, George HW Bush, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton all attended.
Given the years of service and his reach, it is thought Graham preached Christianity to over 210 million people, more than anyone in history.
William Martin, the author of the Graham biography A Prophet With Honor, said: “William Franklin Graham Jr can safely be regarded as the best who ever lived at what he did.”
Born into a fundamentalist family in 1918, Graham joined the emerging New Evangelicalism movement as a young man, abandoning the much of the narrowness of fundamentalism to engage broader society
. He first began to build a following preaching in a travelling revival held in a tent dubbed the “canvas cathedral”.
Graham will be buried by his wife, Ruth, at the eponymous museum and library