Reverend Billy Graham passed away Wednesday morning at his home in Montreat. He was 99. A family spokesman told the Associated Press Graham had been suffering from a variety of ailments, including cancer and pneumonia. His wife Ruth died in 2007. Funeral services have not been announced, but Graham will be buried next to his wife at the Billy Graham Museum and Library in Charlotte.
Graham's ties to Western North Carolina were extensive. In addition to living in Montreat, he and his wife founded the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove in Asheville. In 1987 it opened to "train people in God’s Word to win others to Christ", according to its website. The portion of Interstate 240 that cuts through downtown Asheville is named the Billy Graham Freeway in his honor. The Asheville Citizen-Times also noted the Graham was frequently seen around Montreat, Black Mountain, and Swannanoa despite his fame.
Leaders from Western North Carolina have been sharing their condolences and remembrances of Graham -
Asheville mayor Esther Manheimer - As Mayor of the City of Asheville, I would like to express my deep condolences to the Graham family on the passing of the Rev. Billy Graham, at age 99.
Called the Pastor to Presidents, he also served as a spiritual leader to many people in Asheville and Western North Carolina. In 1953, Rev. Graham held one of his famous crusades in Asheville. Rev. Graham spread his message of God’s love to the world through his crusades in every major U.S. city and the world over, from Europe to Africa, Asia and South America. He offered spiritual guidance to presidents and even royalty, such as Queen Elizabeth. His impact was immeasurable. We here at the City of Asheville pause to mark his passing, with respect for his many contributions.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper - "Billy Graham was a strong, humble, positive and passionate North Carolina man of faith who made a difference in the lives of so many. Rest with God, Reverend Graham."
Congressman Mark Meadows (via Twitter) - "Praise the Lord for a life well lived. Billy Graham is now seeing our savior face to face--the savior that he introduced to so many. He will be deeply missed. 2 Timothy 4:7 - "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."
Former Congressman Health Shuler (via Twitter) - "The last time we spoke you were waiting to see Ruth again. Heaven is celebrating your arrival. We love and will miss you my friend."
Montreat College president Paul Maurer - “The impact that Billy Graham had on Montreat College and the local Montreat community cannot be overstated. He and his wife Ruth were tireless advocates for the college, giving of their time, money, and spiritual guidance over the course of more than 60 years. Even as Billy rose to the level of a national and international figure, he and Ruth maintained deep roots in the local Montreat community as loyal friends, neighbors, and civic leaders.”
Montreat Conference Center - We are deeply grateful for the Reverend Billy Graham and his life in ministry, which stands as a testament to the power of Christ, evangelized honestly and authentically by a man so gifted for that purpose.
To millions, Reverend Graham was the world’s most famous and influential Christian leader. Montreat, however, was home; he and wife Ruth chose this valley to raise their family and to rest and retreat from the rigors of their very public lives. Here in the valley, on those occasions that he ventured into town, Reverend Graham’s reputation as a neighbor of humility and warmth had long preceded him. We join so many in mourning the loss of this wise and humble servant, and we give special thanks for Reverend Graham’s presence in Montreat. We offer our prayers especially today to his friends and family.