(ABC) — Billy Graham, one of the world’s most famous Christian evangelists, has died, a family spokesman said today. He was 99.
Graham died at his home this morning, the spokesman said. Known as “America’s pastor,” Graham was a key figure in reviving the American evangelical movement. The preacher began holding revival meetings in the 1940s and went on to become an adviser to presidents.
He had been in poor health in recent years, and had turned his international ministry over to his son, Franklin Graham.
Despite numerous hospitalizations in recent years, Graham’s work remained in the public eye late into his life. In 2011, around his 93rd birthday, he released what The Associated Press said was his 30th book, “Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well,” on the subject of aging. Also in 2011, audio files documenting six decades of his ministry were put online in a searchable database.
Graham brought evangelical Christianity into the mainstream. As spiritual adviser to many U.S. presidents, he had great access to the White House.
“Each one I’ve known long before they ever became president, been in their homes many times; always called them by their first names, until they became president,” Graham said of several former presidents.
He was close to Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and both Bushes.
Bill Clinton turned to him after his much publicized sex scandal, and George W. Bush credited Graham with helping him to quit drinking alcohol.
When asked how his life would be different if it were not for Billy Graham, George W. Bush said simply, “I wouldn’t be president.”
The evangelist brought his “Billy Graham Crusades” around the world, preaching to more than 210 million people in 185 countries and territories. His largest such gathering drew 1 million people in Seoul, South Korea, in the 1970s.
As Graham prepared at age 86 for what he called his final U.S. crusade, a three-day event in New York City the weekend of June 25, 2005, he pondered his own mortality.
“Do I fear death?” he asked at a news conference. “No. I look forward to death with great anticipation. I’m looking forward to seeing God face to face, and that could happen any day.”
Billy Graham had been admitted numerous times in recent years to Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, for a pulmonary condition. Upon being admitted Nov. 30, 2011, he was seen “alert, smiling and waving at hospital staff,” his family said in a statement at the time.
He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1989. He also suffered from prostate cancer and hydrocephalus, or fluid on the brain, according to The Associated Press. In January 2004, he fell and fractured his left hip, and afterward used a walker to move about.