WASHINGTON – Famed evangelical Christian pastor and evangelist Billy Graham, a charismatic figure for decades in the United States and counselor to presidents, died Wednesday morning at his home in Montreat, North Carolina, according to multiple media reports. He was 99.
The reports, which cited family spokesman Mark DeMoss, did not mention a cause of death.
Rev. Graham, who in 2005 left the leadership of his Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to his son Franklin, was known for his religious television broadcasts and for being a “pastor to presidents.”
He cultivated a friendship with every White House occupant – Republican or Democrat – beginning with Harry Truman, who served as the 33rd president of the United States from 1945 to 1953.
Graham’s broad appeal made him the choice to deliver the main speech at the Washington National Cathedral at the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance Service, which was held three days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on New York and Washington that killed some 3,000 people.
“We’ve seen so much that brings tears to our eyes and makes us all feel a sense of anger. But God can be trusted, even when life seems at its darkest,” Graham said in his remarks that day to a shocked nation.
Former President George W. Bush, who has credited Graham for helping him reassess his life and stop drinking, said in 2002 about his conversations with the evangelist that he “warms your soul.”
The author of countless speeches, columns in US dailies and 24 books, including a best-selling autobiography, the reverend was an influential voice in American society who successfully leveraged the technological revolution in recent decades to bring his message to a broad international audience.
During his worldwide tours, several of which took him to different parts of Latin America, he is estimated to have preached to tens of millions of people.