Thousands pay their respects to the Rev. Billy Graham


CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Thousands of people from all walks of life – including a former president — filed slowly past the casket of the Rev. Billy Graham today to pay their final respects to a man who reached millions with his message of salvation through Jesus Christ.

A light drizzle greeted mourners on hand at 8 a.m. when the doors opened to Graham's boyhood home, but it had tapered by the late afternoon when former President George W. Bush arrived with his wife, Laura. The viewing was expected to last late into the night for the famed evangelist, who died Wednesday at age 99.

Mourners of all races, young and old, some in suits and some in T-shirts and flip-flops, walked through the parlor where Graham's closed casket lay on a black pedestal. They walked past family photos and a cross made of white lilies to see the simple plywood container made by prison inmates. At the door for the first few hours was Graham's grandson, Roy, shaking the hand of every person who came to see his grandfather.

"I just wanted to tell them how much I appreciated the love for my family," Roy Graham said.

And they responded with stories. Roy Graham said what moved him the most today were the dozens who paused and told him the exact moment and place Billy Graham came into their lives through his hundreds of crusades around the world.

Cecily Turner is one of them. Her mother was at Billy Graham's 1957 New York crusade and she said he led her mother to salvation that day.

"I know she is in heaven thanking him right now," she said.

Mother passed her faith on to daughter, and Turner said she passed it down to five children and four great-grandchildren.

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