Billy Graham, adviser to US presidents, dies at 99
U.S. evangelist Billy Graham, who counseled presidents and preached to millions across the world from his native North Carolina to communist North Korea during his 70 years in the pulpit, died on Feb. 21 at the age of 99, a spokesman said.
According to his ministry, he preached Christianity to more people than anyone else in history, reaching hundreds of millions of people either in person or via TV and satellite links.
Graham became the de facto White House chaplain to several U.S. presidents, most famously Richard Nixon. He also met with scores of world leaders and was the first noted evangelist to take his message behind the Iron Curtain.
“He was probably the dominant religious leader of his era,” said William Martin, author of “A Prophet With Honor: The Billy Graham Story.” “No more than one or two popes, perhaps one or two other people, came close to what he achieved.”
Graham found himself at times in controversy over his disapproving stand on gay rights, as well as over a secretly recorded conversation with Nixon in which the cleric complained that Jews had too much influence on the U.S. media. In the later years of his career he intentionally muted his political beliefs to focus on the Gospel.
Graham was no longer a close associate of presidents in recent years but many former U.S. leaders paid tribute on Feb. 21. President Donald Trump said on Twitter: “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 a rare trip away from his home in his later years, Graham had celebrated his 95th birthday on Nov. 7, 2013, at a hotel in Asheville, North Carolina, where some 800 guests, including Trump, business magnate Rupert Murdoch and television hostess Kathie Lee Gifford paid tribute.