American evangelist Billy Graham, a spiritual advisor to a dozen US presidents, died Wednesday at age 99, his foundation said.
Tall and handsome, Graham, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, cut a charismatic figure as an evangelical preacher whose huge tent meetings and rallies found audiences on radio and television.
He preached to a long line of US presidents, from Harry Truman to Barack Obama, and he was portrayed as a spiritual adviser to the young Queen Elizabeth II in the recent Netflix television series “The Crown.”
“Evangelist Billy Graham died today at 7:46 am ET at age 99,” the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association said on its website.
The Southern Baptist preacher was close to the family of President George W. Bush, who once said that a private meeting with Graham in 1985 helped him quit drinking.
More recently his role as a sometime spiritual adviser to the young Queen Elizabeth II as she confronted the burdens of rule was featured in the Netflix mini-series “The Crown.”
Graham was a pioneer of “televangelism” to convert souls to Christianity as television got off the ground in the 1950s.
Born on November 7, 1918, he was raised as one of four children on a dairy farm in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Graham had a spiritual awakening in 1934 that changed the course of his life. He subsequently attended the Florida Bible Institute, now Trinity College of Florida, and was ordained as a Baptist minister in 1939.
In 1950, he founded the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) in Minneapolis, Minnesota and launched a weekly “Hour of Decision” radio program.
Graham and his wife Ruth Bell Graham — the daughter of a missionary surgeon who grew up in China — had five children.
These include Anne Graham Lotz, a Christian author and speaker, and two sons, who like their famous father became ministers.
One son, William Franklin Graham III is now the head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
His wife Ruth, although married for nearly 64 years to the world’s most famous Baptist preacher, remained a lifelong Presbyterian. She died in June 2007 at the age of 87.