End of a Journey: Billy Graham’s Family Receives His Casket in Charlotte

By   •   February 24, 2018

Billy Graham's grandsons, including Will Graham (pictured at the front of the casket in a red necktie) are serving as pallbearers. On Saturday, six of the 12 grandsons carried Mr. Graham into the Billy Graham Library for a private family ceremony.

Billy Graham will lie in repose on Monday & Tuesday in Charlotte. This event is open to the public. 

Sunshine spilled from once overcast skies on Saturday as the black hearse carrying Billy Graham rolled to a stop in front of the Billy Graham Library.

The 14-car motorcade had just traveled 130 miles of North Carolina roads from the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville to the Library in Mr. Graham’s hometown of Charlotte.

It was a relatively short trip for a man who once spent decades canvassing the globe, sharing the . And yet the evident impact of his life in that short three-and-a-half-hour trip was humbling. Along the processional route, even up to the gate of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, people parked their cars and stood. Some waved Bibles, American flags or just their  hand to say goodbye.

Standing outside the Library, Leighton Ford’s eyes shone under the unseasonably warm February sun. He couldn’t help but be struck by what his brother-in-law would think of the outpouring for the motorcade.

“This farm boy who grew up on the red clay just five miles from here, his mouth would probably drop open,” said Ford, an evangelist and author. “He’d say, ‘It’s too much about me.’ But he’d appreciate it. He’d be grateful for it.

“Paul said, ‘Not just I am what I am, but by the grace of God, I am what I am.’ And that’s what he’d want people to know. It’s by God’s grace he was here.”

Jean Graham Ford, Billy Graham’s little sister, gives her granddaughter a hug in the Billy Graham Library, where a private family ceremony was held on Saturday afternoon.

Ford greeted Franklin Graham and other close relatives after they exited the motorcade. Family members hugged, and the pallbearers—Mr. Graham’s grandsons—got into position. Will Graham, along with his brother, Roy, and cousins, carefully lifted Mr. Graham’s simple, handmade casket out of the hearse. They walked slowly, but not sorrowfully, toward the Library for the private family ceremony that was held in the lobby. A cross shaped of white lilies, an arrangement Billy and Ruth Graham often sent for funerals, sat near the casket.

“I always kind of hoped this day would never come when he passed onto glory, but it did,” said Wayne Atcheson, regional director of the Billy Graham Library. “I have to take a lot of deep breaths because I’m kind of heartbroken, but I’m just thrilled for the privilege and high honor I’ve had to share his life with so many people with the position I’ve had the joy of being in for the past 12 years.”

Atcheson, the first director of the Library when it opened in 2006, added, “What a wonderful man he was, godly and prayed without ceasing and just always lived the Word of God. He lived for Jesus, and that was his life. I have a heavy heart, but yet I rejoice in his going.”

Ken Barun, executive vice president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, echoed that sentiment on Saturday.

“His life touched everyone,” said Barun, noting his once-orthodox Jewish father made a point of watching Mr. Graham every week on television. His father would later accept Christ.

“(Billy Graham’s) life touched this world in a way that was meaningful. Mr. Graham touched the soul of people, touched the heart of people, and that’s why this response is so great.”

People waved and some captured the moment with their phones as the motorcade pulled off Billy Graham Parkway and into the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina..

Members of the public will have another opportunity to pay their respects starting Monday, February 26. Mr. Graham will at the Billy Graham Homeplace on the grounds of the Billy Graham Library on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, he will lie in honor at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C. A private funeral service will be held Friday in Charlotte, where Mr. Graham will be buried beside his wife Ruth in the Prayer Garden of the Billy Graham Library.

Just a short walk from that Prayer Garden, Ford contemplated Mr. Graham’s legacy on Saturday. Birds chirped and white flowering trees danced in the breeze as Ford shared how Mr. Graham once told him he just wanted to be remembered for .

“I think Billy would say it’s not my power that drew people, that’s lifting up Christ, which we should all do, and that’s what he centered on,” Ford said. “He was so faithful. Now, he’s got a wonderful gift of speaking and a powerful voice and all of those things, but I think it’s the fact he lifted up Christ.”


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  1. Rev Thokala Joseph Raju says:

    In 1987, I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour and Lord. For the last 30 years, I’ve been reading Dr. Billy Graham’s books with my Bible and preaching the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in unreached villages all over India. We thank God for Dr. Graham who spread the good news of Jesus Christ to millions of people all over the world. Like Dr. Billy Graham, I would like to reach millions of people with the gospel of Jesus Christ all over India. Kindly pray for our ministry in India. Glory to God for the great man of God, Dr. Billy Graham.

    Rev. Thokala Joseph Raju
    Messiah Evangelical Tree Ministries
    Hyderabad, India

  2. Randy Stafford says:

    I was privileged to attend 5 different Crusade services: Norfolk, VA (1974); Raleigh, NC (1976); Tampa, FL (1979); Rochester, NY (1988); Jacksonville, FL (2000). Watching on TV is great but nothing like being there in person. Thank you, Dr. Graham, for your faithfulness.

  3. Marolyn Peterman says:

    We first heard about Billy Graham at the huge tent in Los Angeles that was filled with people night after night. Even many celebrities were finding new life in Jesus as the Holy Spirit spoke through this young man, Billy Graham. We joined the choir at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, and wept
    and rejoiced as the crowds poured down to respond to the message. The Holy Spirit was able to use Billy’s humble sermons to draw so many to Him! We rejoice for the life and love of this man of God!

  4. Trevor Hazlewood says:

    What can one say, but thanks be to God for the life of a wonderful, faithful servant. A great example for us all.

  5. Marie says:

    I received Christ at 16 in a crusade. The discipleship material that followed was great. I have been in ministry now for over 30 years in over 35 nations. Billy Graham was a champion and his reward is far greater than anyone can count. His very presence will be missed. But his legacy is ongoing! I thank God for his obedience to God’s call no matter what the cost was to him. What an example of love and integrity.

  6. Love says:

    What I admire most about Billy Graham is his focusing on the Words of God and his willingness to give God the glory in all he did. We thank you for your life, Billy. It has touched us even in the very remote parts of this world – the Pacific.