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Private funeral and weeklong events planned for Billy Graham

DURHAM, N.C. (RNS) — Billy Graham will be buried on March 2 at the library he established in Charlotte, N.C., after a funeral service under a tent similar to the one where the evangelist held his first major revival nearly 70 years ago.

The 99-year-old preacher died at 7:46 a.m. on Wednesday (Feb. 21) at his home in the mountains of Montreat, a small town on the western edge of the state in which he was born.

At a press briefing Wednesday, Mark DeMoss, a family spokesman, detailed a long list of prayer services, viewings and motorcades beginning Thursday that will culminate in Graham’s burial beside his late wife, Ruth, outside the library in Charlotte.

DeMoss said a tent for the service will be erected on the grounds of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, meant to resemble the one Graham preached under in Los Angeles in 1949, in a revival that catapulted him into the public eye.

“We, his family and team members thought it would be fitting to also conduct his funeral service under a tent as a reminder of how his public ministry was launched,” DeMoss said.

The invitation-only funeral for about 2,300 people, as well as the burial, will be private.

The events, many of which Graham planned years ago, begin Thursday when his casket will be driven to the Billy Graham Training Center, also called The Cove, in Asheville.

On Friday, Graham’s family — five children, 19 grandchildren and many great-grandchildren — will gather for a private family prayer service, after which his casket will be driven by motorcade to Charlotte, about 115 miles away.

Graham will lie in repose there Monday and Tuesday at the Graham family homestead, which is adjacent to the Billy Graham Library. The viewing will be open to the public.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan announced Thursday that Graham will be brought Wednesday to the U.S. Capitol, where he will lie in honor in the rotunda until March 1. He appears to be the first pastor ever honored in this way.

Inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola built Graham’s casket, made of pine and topped with a wooden cross.

The burial will be conducted by Graham’s longtime pastor, Donald Wilton of First Baptist Church, Spartanburg, S.C. Graham became a member of the church in 2008 and watched live feeds of the service on his television after he could no longer attend in person.

“He came to view Dr. Wilton as his pastor and the two became close friends,” DeMoss said, adding that Wilton visited Graham “almost weekly.”

High-level dignitaries are expected to attend the funeral for Graham, who befriended presidents and served as a confidant to many Oval Office occupants. DeMoss said law enforcement agencies were consulted and helped plan and vet the arrangements.

Graham had been in failing health since being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1992 and with hydrocephalus, a condition in which water collects on the brain, in 2000. DeMoss said Graham’s son Franklin last saw him on Sunday.

DeMoss said no family member was present at Graham’s death. His doctor, Lucian Rice, arrived at the home 20 minutes after his death and, according to the spokesman, said of the preacher, “He just wore out.”

About the author

Yonat Shimron

Yonat Shimron is an RNS National Reporter and Senior Editor.

6 Comments

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  • “Mark DeMoss, a family spokesman, detailed a long list of prayer services, viewings and motorcades…”

    Remind me again, Protestant, how you hate man-made rituals because they distract from the glory of God.

  • And I am sure they will pass the money buckets to pay the exorbitant salaries of the executives of Billy G’s “non-profits”.

  • What a jackass you are. And yes, believers are free to call a spade a spade. It’s laughable all that you know-nothings claim to know…but it won’t be quite as funny and you won’t be as self-righteous when you are face planted before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

  • What a fool you are….the events are not by Billy’s design, they are for the mourners which include not only his family but the entire decent-hearted world…which explains why YOU don’t get it.

  • Aww, sounds like I triggered a snowflake. Let me get you a teddy bear and some finger paints for your safe space, sweetheart.
    And speaking of not getting it (a lifelong problem of yours, I’m sure), you failed to address my point at all.
    Who cares whose ‘design’ it’s by – it’s still Protestant heretics doing the same exact thing they demonize others for doing.

  • There are always economics built into one’s beliefs. For example, is Susan Jacoby an atheist because there is money to be made from books, speeches and columns on the subject? Unless she and others in the business of making good income from books, etc. on religion, secularism, or atheism take a vow of poverty, we will never know.
    Some examples of the Christian money grab:

    Glen Beck, $32 million in 2010,
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/08/glenn-beck-earned-32-mill_n_529903.html

    and from guidestar.org

    Rev. Franklin Graham $800,000+/yr.

    Rev. Billy Graham, $400,000/yr

    Rabbi Bradley Hirschfield $331,708/yr

    Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, $200,000/yr

    Erica Brown $134,221/yr

    Eboo Patel $120,000/yr and his “non-profit’s” investment portfolio
    of $1.2 million

    Imam Rauf and his wife Daisy, $400,000/yr/ea estimated

    Susan Jacoby ????

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