Christian evangelist and ordained minister Billy Graham, who is widely regarded as the most influential preacher of the 20th century, died, Wednesday, at his mountaintop home in Montreat, North Carolina. He was 99.
Graham’s spokesman Mark DeMoss confirmed the news on his public relations firm’s website, writing that “Graham died today at 7:46 a.m. ET.”
He had been treated in recent years for cancer, pneumonia and other ailments.
Graham spent six decades preaching on television and radio — principally on the Billy Graham Crusades, which he began in 1947. He has said to have reached more than 200 million people throughout his lifetime of work before he retired in 2005.
He was an outspoken advocate for racial integration in the 1950s and ’60s, even working closely with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
He was a spiritual advisor to a sea of American presidents, praying with every U.S. commander in chief from Harry Truman to Barack Obama and earning him the nickname “America’s Pastor.” He had particularly close friendships with Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard Nixon. Ronald Reagan gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1983, America’s highest civilian honor. George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton all attended the Billy Graham Museum and Library dedication in 2007 in Charlotte.
Graham also had a close friendship with Queen Elizabeth II and was frequently invited by the Royal Family to special events. Their friendship was seen on screen in the second season of Netflix’s The Crown.
In 2013, Graham delivered his final sermon in a video message he presented Thursday at his 95th birthday party for a crowd that included Sarah Palin, Donald Trump and North Carolina governor Pat McCrory.
“Our country’s in great need of a spiritual awakening,” he said in the video, titled “My Hope America.” “There have been times that I’ve wept as I’ve gone from city to city, and I’ve seen how far people have wandered from God.”
“With all my heart, I want to leave you with the truth – that loves you willing to forgive you of all your sins,” he added.
RELATED: Watch Billy Graham Deliver Final Sermon at 95: ‘I’ve Wept’ for America
Graham was married to wife Ruth for 64 years before her death in 2007. He has five children: Daughters Anne Graham Lotz, Gigi Graham and Ruth Graham, and sons Franklin III Graham and Nelson Graham.
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