UPDATE | Rev. Billy Graham praised by Trump, politicians as 'America's pastor'


WASHINGTON (AP) — He felt stung by the politics that helped define his life – and resolved to keep a distance. But in death, the Rev. Billy Graham today received a rare tribute from the nation's top political leaders under the Capitol Rotunda.

"Here lies America's pastor," said House Speaker Paul Ryan, gesturing to Graham's casket under the eye of the dome, surrounded by family, friends, lawmakers and a ring of paintings of the nation's founders. "He ministered to all walks, from some of the greats whose statues line this hall – Eisenhower, King, Ford, and Reagan – to the everyday citizens lining up today to pay their respects."

President Donald Trump said his father was an admirer of Graham's and that the "legendary" American figure deserved to be recognized in the place "where the memory of the American people is enshrined."

Added Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: "The man we recognize today shared the gospel with more people, face-to-face, than anyone else in history."

Graham died a week earlier at age 99. Some 30 family members are accompanying Graham's casket to Washington, where he befriended presidents of both parties and counseled others over seven decades.

10:54 a.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) — He felt stung by the politics that helped define his life – and resolved to keep a distance. But in death, the Rev. Billy Graham is getting a rare tribute from the nation's top political leaders under the Capitol Rotunda.

President Donald Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are expected today to remember "America's pastor," who died a week earlier at age 99. Some 30 family members are accompanying Graham's casket to Washington, where he befriended presidents of both parties and counseled others over seven decades.

Graham's son, Franklin, tweeted a photo today of family members loading the casket onto a jet emblazoned with "Samaritan's Purse," the name of a Christian relief charity that he chairs.

Graham is lying in honor beneath the iconic dome before a funeral Friday near his home in Charlotte, N.C. The Rotunda entrances were draped with black fabric and set up for lawmakers and family members to stand around the casket, ringed by the Rotunda's paintings of the nation's founders. Graham's casket will rest on a black-draped catafalque beneath the soaring ceiling and its painting, the "Apotheosis of Washington."

"If there is any American whose life and life's work deserves to be honored by laying in honor in the U.S. Capitol, it's Billy Graham," Ryan said.

Though he met every president since Harry Truman and counseled most, Graham grew wary of politics after Watergate. He was closest to Richard Nixon but later said he felt used by him.

Nonetheless, Graham ministered to other presidents until his health began to fail about 10 years ago.

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