U.S. Evangelist Graham ‘Followed Jesus All The Way to Heaven,’ Son Says

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Police officers stand guard in front of the Billy Graham Library before the start of the funeral for evangelist Billy Graham in Charlotte, North Carolina
Police officers stand guard in front of the Billy Graham Library before the start of the funeral for evangelist Billy Graham in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S., March 2, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
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By Jeff Mason and Greg Lacour
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Reuters)

U.S. evangelist Billy Graham, who preached to millions and counselled presidents in his 70-year career, was remembered as a man who loved his family and the Bible at a funeral on Friday attended by President Donald Trump in Graham’s native North Carolina

The service at his religious centre was a mix of Bible readings, tender family memories, songs and words meant to inspire. About 2,300 people gathered beneath a canvas tent emblematic of Graham’s 1949 Los Angeles revival that marked his breakthrough as a religious leader.

 

Friends of the late U.S. evangelist Billy Graham pray during funeral service in Charlotte
India and Greg Keith, family friends of the Grahams, pray before the funeral service for the late U.S. evangelist Billy Graham at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S., March 2, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

 

Graham, who died on Feb. 21 at age 99, lay in honour at the U.S. Capitol this week in recognition of a clergyman who became the first noted evangelist to take his message to the Soviet bloc when its communist regimes were hostile to organised religion.

 

Attendees await the start of funeral service for U.S. evangelist Billy Graham in Charlotte
Attendees await the start of funeral service for U.S. evangelist Billy Graham at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S., March 2, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

 

“Just a few days ago, my father followed Jesus all the way to heaven,” son Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said at the funeral.

 

Attendees embrace before the start of funeral service for U.S. evangelist Billy Graham in Charlotte
Attendees hold a program and embrace before the funeral service for U.S. evangelist Billy Graham at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S., March 2, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

 

He said the man seen by millions around the world preaching the Bible was the same man at home. Billy Graham asked his children to read him the Bible because he loved to hear God’s word, other family members said.

 

 

He was faithful. He was available and he was teachable,” son Nelson “Ned” Graham told the service.

Trump, a Republican, sat with first lady Melania Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, in the front row.

 

An attendee awaits the funeral service for U.S. evangelist Billy Graham in Charlotte
An attendee holds a program while awaiting the start of funeral service for U.S. evangelist Billy Graham at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S., March 2, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

 

The president spoke with family members ahead of the funeral, including Jean Ford, Graham’s sister, but was not among the speakers at the service.

Graham will be buried in a pine coffin made by Louisiana prison inmates and laid to rest next to his late wife, Ruth, at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte.

 

Gigi Graham, daughter of evangelist Billy Graham, is comforted by Michelle Bachelor, an employee at the Billy Graham Training Center, inside Chatlos Memorial Chapel, in Asheville
Gigi Graham (L), daughter of evangelist Billy Graham, is comforted by Michelle Bachelor, an employee at the Billy Graham Training Center, inside Chatlos Memorial Chapel, where a memorial for her father, who died Wednesday at his Montreat home aged 99, took place in Asheville, North Carolina, U.S. February 22, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

 

His headstone will carry his name, dates of birth and death and the inscription “Preacher of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ” above a reference to John 14:6. The Bible passage reads: “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'”

Graham became the de facto White House chaplain to several U.S. presidents, most famously Richard Nixon.

 

 

The evangelist 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.

 

(Additional reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; writing by Jon Herskovitz; editing by Colleen Jenkins and Cynthia Osterman)

 

The burial site for evangelist Billy Graham lies in wait for his casket before the start of his funeral at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina
The burial site for evangelist Billy Graham lies in wait for his casket before the start of his funeral at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S., March 2, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

 

U.S. President Donald Trump departs Dulles Airport
U.S. President Donald Trump boards Air Force One as he departs Dulles Airport in Virginia, on his way to attend the funeral of Rev. Billy Graham, March 2, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

 

People arrive for funeral service for the late U.S. evangelist Billy Graham in Charlotte
The Billy Graham Library is seen in the background as people are silhouetted as they arrive for the funeral service for the late U.S. evangelist Billy Graham in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S., March 2, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

 

A worker prepares the stage near the Billy Graham Library before the start of the funeral for evangelist Billy Graham in Charlotte, North Carolina
A worker prepares the stage near the Billy Graham Library before the start of the funeral for evangelist Billy Graham in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S., March 2, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

 

The late U.S. evangelist Billy Graham lies in honor in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol in Washington
Members of the public visit the late U.S. evangelist Billy Graham as he lies in honor in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. February 28, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
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