By JULIA LERNER
Capital News Service
WASHINGTON – With tributes from President Donald Trump and congressional leaders, the late Rev. Billy Graham was “lain in honor” at a memorial service in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol Wednesday.
Graham, an evangelical Christian famous for his crusades around the country in the second half of the 20th century, is the fourth U.S. citizen to receive this distinction, and the first religious leader to be honored. Others were civil rights icon Rosa Parks and U.S. Capitol Police Officers Jacob Chestnut and John Gibson, two officers who were killed while stopping a gunman in the Capitol building.
Graham died Feb. 21, at the age of 99. The reverend is survived by his sons, Rev. William Franklin III and Rev. Nelson Graham, his daughters, Virginia Tchividjian, Anne Graham Lotz and Ruth Graham McIntyre, and a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Throughout the last few years, he had suffered from prostate cancer, hydrocephalus, and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, though he continued to preach the gospel until his death.
Born in 1918, Graham became one of the most famous spiritual leaders in the United States. Hailed as an “ambassador for Christ” in remarks by Trump, Graham spoke around the country about the gospel and contemporary politics.
Graham “spread the gospel in 185 countries during his 99 years on Earth, touching the lives of many and forever changing the course of the world’s spiritual health,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan. “In those moments, when we felt weak in spirit, when our country was on its knees, he reminded us, he convinced us that is exactly when we find our grace and our strength.”
Other speakers at the ceremony included Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky.
Graham’s devotion to God is what “made Billy Graham America’s pastor,” McConnell said.
“The man we recognize today shared the gospel with more people than anyone else in history,” the senator continued. “His warmth and graciousness lit up living rooms and touched millions of hearts.”
Praised by both Democrats and Republicans, Graham developed close relationships with many presidents, including Bill Clinton, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Graham’s body will lay in honor until 10:30 a.m. Thursday, when it will be moved to the Billy Graham Library in North Carolina for his funeral service Friday.