A private funeral for Graham will be held Friday, March 2, at noon under a tent at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte. Invitations to the funeral were extended to President Trump and former presidents, according to his spokesman Mark DeMoss. The invitation-only service is scheduled to include 2,300 people.
Graham was a personal friend to several presidents, and preached to tens of millions of people in person and myriad others through radio, television and the Internet. Over nearly a century, he became an icon, an entrepreneur, a pastor and a key architect of American evangelicalism — the largest religious body in America today that makes up a quarter of the American electorate. Graham’s influence on key religious leaders, institutions, political activism and cultural engagement helped shape a large chunk of America.
Graham’s body was moved from his home in Montreat where he died Wednesday to a funeral home in Asheville, N.C. On Saturday at 11 a.m., after a private family service, there will be a three-hour processional from the Billy Graham Training Center in Asheville to the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte.
Graham will lie in repose in a closed casket at his childhood home, which was moved from its original location to the grounds of the Graham library. The public will be able to visit the property from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday and Tuesday.
Graham died at age 99. In the 1990s, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease-like symptoms. He was last admitted to a hospital in 2013. His personal physician, according to DeMoss, said Graham “just wore out.”
Graham personally approved the planning and details of his funeral, including his favorite hymns, with his friend and music director Cliff Barrows, who died in 2016. One of Graham’s sons, Franklin Graham, will provide the main message, and his other children will offer brief words. His casket with a wooden cross at the top was made by inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. When Graham preached there in 2005, he asked them to make one.
Following Friday’s funeral, he will be buried beside Ruth Graham in a prayer garden on the site of the library. She was buried in 2007 after her death at age 87.
In 1949, Graham’s lengthy revival in Los Angeles, where he spoke under a tent, launched him onto the national spotlight.
“Graham displayed an uncanny ability to adopt trends in the wider culture and then use them for his evangelistic and moral reform purposes,” wrote historian Grant Wacker, of Duke Divinity School, in his Graham biography “America’s Pastor.”
Graham knew all 11 presidents from Harry Truman to George W. Bush, enjoyed friendships with all except Truman and had very close friendships with Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Barack Obama was the first sitting president to visit him. Former president Bill Clinton said in 2007 that Graham had been “the most influential person” in his spiritual life.
Graham fathered a legacy that manifested itself in figures as different as his son Franklin, Rick Warren and Bono, Wacker wrote, noting Graham’s ability to transcend denominational boundaries, theological disputes and partisan agendas. “He also exemplified a personality profile that millions of Americans found both complicated and enormously appealing,” he wrote.