By Prudence Arobani/New York
Rev. Billy Graham, one of the world’s most famous Christian evangelists, has died at the age of 99, a family spokesman has said.
Graham had been treated in recent years for cancer, pneumonia and other ailments. The spokesman Mark DeMoss confirmed that the Rev. Graham died Wednesday morning at his home in Montreat, North Carolina.
His message and service to U.S. presidents from Dwight Eisenhower to George W. Bush earned him the nickname “America’s Pastor.”
Graham died at 8 a.m. (1300 GMT) at his home in Montreat, North Carolina, according to Jeremy Blume, a spokesman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
The foremost preacher counselled presidents and preached to millions across the world including communist North Korea during his 70 years on the pulpit.
According to his ministry, he preached to more people than anyone else in history, reaching hundreds of millions of people either in person or via television and satellite links.
Graham reached millions of them through television – the first to use the medium to convey the Christian message on that scale.
The evangelist brought his “Billy Graham Crusades” around the world, preaching to more than 210 million people in 185 countries and territories, the ministry said.
Graham became one of the best-known promoters of Christianity, beginning his worldwide mission in large arenas in London in 1954.
Dubbed ‘the man who preached to the Queen’, he reportedly delivered a sermon to the queen in the Royal Family’s private chapel. He was seen as a spiritual adviser to the Queen.
He was also the spiritual adviser to many U.S. leaders from Harry Truman to Barack Obama.
Born in 1918 and raised on his family’s dairy farm in Charlotte, North Carolina, Graham became a committed Christian at the age of 16 after hearing a traveling evangelist.
He was ordained a minister in 1939 at a young age of 21.
Graham’s public profile was raised in the U.S. when he held a two-month ministry in a giant tent in Los Angeles in 1949, according to reports. In 1995 his Evangelistic Association designated his son William Franklin Graham III as the ministry’s leader.
His wife, Ruth, died in 2007. Mr. Graham reached more than 200 million through his appearances and millions more through his pioneering use of television and radio.
He preached a simplified Protestant message about sin and especially redemption. He did so without rancor and, especially in later years, without much emphasis on the prospect of hell fire.
“I’m selling the greatest product in the world,” Mr. Graham said in 1954. “Why shouldn’t it be promoted as well as soap?”