He felt stung by the politics that helped define his life — and resolved to keep a distance. But in death, the Rev. Billy Graham on Wednesday received a rare tribute from the nation’s top political leaders under the Capitol Rotunda.
“Here lies America’s pastor,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, gesturing to Graham’s casket under the eye of the dome, surrounded by family, friends, lawmakers and a ring of paintings of the nation’s founders. “He ministered to all walks, from some of the greats whose statues line this hall —Eisenhower, King, Ford, and Reagan — to the everyday citizens lining up today to pay their respects.”
President Donald Trump said his father was an admirer of Graham’s and that the “legendary” American figure deserved to be recognized in the place “where the memory of the American people is enshrined.”
Added Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: “The man we recognize today shared the Gospel with more people, face-to-face, than anyone else in history.”
As the leaders stood by the casket, Trump reached out to touch the bare wood and Ryan bowed his head.
Graham died a week earlier at age 99. Some 30 family members are accompanying Graham’s casket to Washington, where he befriended presidents of both parties and counseled others over seven decades. Graham’s son, Franklin, tweeted a photo Wednesday of family members loading the casket onto a jet emblazoned with “Samaritan’s Purse,” the name of a Christian relief charity that he chairs.
Graham is lying in honor before a funeral Friday near his home in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Rotunda entrances were draped with black fabric, and Graham’s casket rested on a black-draped catafalque beneath the soaring ceiling and its painting, the “Apotheosis of Washington.” (AP)