President Donald Trump and the first lady will be in attendance Friday as Reverend Billy Graham is laid to rest during a private funeral service at his library in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The evangelist had met and prayed with every US President from Harry Truman to Barack Obama, developing friendships and serving as a spiritual adviser to many. He died last week at his home in Montreat, North Carolina, at the age of 99. All of the living US Presidents have issued statements honoring the late reverend.
Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, according to the Billy Graham Library, even offered Graham positions in government, "which he quickly and politely refused."
Speaking at a ceremony as Graham was laid in honor in the Capitol Rotunda on Wednesday, Trump recalled seeing Graham preach with his father at Yankee Stadium in 1957, calling him "an ambassador for Christ who reminded the world of the power of prayer and the gift of God's grace."
Truman was the first sitting president to meet with Billy Graham, who over the years became a witness and participant in US presidential history.
In 1956, President Dwight Eisenhower was asked by a reporter about a meeting with Graham and whether he was "thinking of mobilizing the religious countries of the world against communism."
Eisenhower said the two "never" discussed any plans for mobilizing nations, but said he saw Graham as "a man who clearly understands that any advance in the world has got to be accompanied by a clear realization that man is, after all, a spiritual being."
"He carries his religion to the far comers of the earth, trying to promote peace, trying to promote mediation instead of conflict, tolerance instead of prejudice," Eisenhower said.
In 1962, Kennedy spoke of Graham at the Presidential Prayer Breakfast, saying: "He has, I think, transmitted this most important quality of our common commitments to faith in a way which makes us all particularly proud."
Graham later attended Kennedy's funeral in the Capitol rotunda, per the library.
Johnson invited Graham to spend more than 20 nights at the White House, where the two prayed together, according to the library.
Nixon and Graham were personal friends, but Graham did not visit in the last year of his presidency. Nixon reportedly told aides: "Don't let Billy Graham near me, I don't want him tarred with Watergate."
Graham later famously advised then-first lady Hillary Clinton as she grappled with her husband's infidelity and resulting scandal and impeachment.
When the Billy Graham Library was dedicated here in 2007, Presidents Carter, George H. W. Bush, and Clinton were all in attendance.
Though Trump did not meet Graham as a sitting President, the two met at an event celebrating Graham's 95th birthday in 2013.
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