Thousands of mourners streamed through the U.S. Rotunda Capitol to pay their final respects to Dr. Billy Graham who died at the age of 99 at his home in North Carolina on February 21, 2018. Thoughout the day, as mourners wound their way through the Rotunda, they were greeted by Graham's children, including son Franklin and daughter Anne, and their families.
Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) and international relief organization Samaritan's Purse, thanked all who came to pay their respects.
Our entire family was moved beyond words today as my father was the fourth private citizen to lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. We are deeply grateful to Congress for this historic honor. The messages and prayers shared in the morning service, and the kind expressions of condolence from all those in attendance mean so much and will never be forgotten. My father would not be comfortable with all of the attention, but he would be pleased with the focus on the Lord Jesus Christ and His life-changing Gospel that permeated the event.
Mourners saw firsthand the casket that was built for Dr. Graham by Richard "Grasshopper” Liggett, Clarence “Mr. Bud” Wilkerson, and David Bacon, inmates of the Louisiana State Penitentiary, AKA "Alcatraz of the South." It's constructed out of pine plywood and finished with a simple cross on top. The inside is lined with a thin mattress pad and bedding from Walmart. Burl Cain, the prison's former long-time warden told CSN, "They would pray before they started every day and ask that God would anoint their work, because this was a very serious thing. Billy Graham was a human - he wasn’t God - but he was one of the godliest humans on the earth. They took it very seriously. And, it was a reverent operation.”
Graham's coffin was set upon the same catafalque - a simple base constructed of rough pine board base and a heavy black drape - that was hastily constructed in 1865 for Abraham Lincoln after his assination. Graham is the fourth private citizen to ever lie in honor in the Captiol. Rosa Parks was most recent, and Lincoln's catafalque was used to support her coffin.
In one of the most touching moments of the day, SHINE-FM artist Michael W. Smith was invited to play the hymn synonymous with Dr. Billy Graham, "Just As I Am." Their friends spanned 30 years, and you can hear his emotion as he sings this song in honor of his dear friend.
Dr. Graham will journey back to North Carolina where a private memorial service will be held on March 2nd, at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina. While it is a private ceremony, the public is invited to watch the live stream beginning at 10AM. The funeral service will begin at noon.