Bill Clinton Says He Is Grateful For Graham

Feb 26, 2018

Updated at 1:20 p.m., Feb. 27, 2018

Former President Bill Clinton says he came to pay his respects to the late Rev. Billy Graham more like a regular mourner than a man who once led the free world.

Clinton was escorted Tuesday by Graham's son Franklin to view the casket in the parlor of Graham's boyhood home.

The two spoke for about 15 minutes before appearing to share a prayer over the closed casket.

Clinton says Graham changed his life when he saw his crusade in Arkansas at a football stadium when he was 11. He says Graham was the same man on that football field as he was during one-on-one visits in the White House.

Former President George W. Bush paid his respects at Graham's casket Monday.

The Rev. Billy Graham's family and friends are again opening up his boyhood home in North Carolina for people to pause at his body and pay their respects.

Updated 8:59 a.m.

The mourners Tuesday are expected to include former U.S. President Bill Clinton at the complex that includes Graham's family home, his library and the headquarters of his evangelical association.

Thousands came Monday, filing past family photos and a cross made of white lilies to see Graham's closed plywood casket, made by Louisiana prison inmates. The mourners included ex-President George W. Bush.

Graham's body will be taken to Washington on Wednesday and Thursday to lie in honor at the U.S. Capitol.

Graham's funeral is Friday, and President Donald Trump is expected to attend. Invitations were sent to all ex-presidents of the U.S. George W. Bush paid his respects Monday because he had a scheduling conflict with the funeral.

On Monday, mourners of all races, young and old, some in suits and some in T-shirts and flip-flops, walked past the parlor where his closed casket lay on a black pedestal. They gazed into a room filled with family photos and a cross made of white lilies to see the simple plywood container made by prison inmates. And 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 Monday 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.

"That's an amazing thing," she said.

Public viewing will continue Tuesday at Graham's Charlotte library on the campus of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. His body will then be taken to the U.S. Capitol, where Wednesday and Thursday he will be the first private citizen to lie in honor there since civil rights hero Rosa Parks in 2005.

Graham's funeral will be held in a giant tent as a nod to Graham's 1949 Los Angeles crusade. That revival, which Graham said propelled him to worldwide fame, was held in a circus tent dubbed the "Canvas Cathedral."

The man called "America's Pastor" would eventually preach to an estimated 210 million people in person and many more through his pioneering use of prime-time telecasts, network radio, daily newspaper columns, evangelistic films and satellite TV hookups.

Billy Wayne Arrington was a boy when he first encountered Graham on a TV screen in Kingsport, Tennessee. He now does Christian theater. Arrington wiped tears from his eyes as he exited after saying a prayer for Graham and for the world he leaves behind.

"I'm just overwhelmed, not by sadness — just overwhelmed to see so many lives touched," Arrington said.

Graham will be buried beside his wife, Ruth, who died in 2007, at the foot of a cross-shaped walkway at Graham's library in Charlotte.