News of the death of renowned Rev. Billy Graham has made shockwaves across much of the United States and religious world alike. Graham, who’s sermons were broadcast in churches around the country, died Wednesday morning at his home in Montreat, North Carolina, his nonprofit organization announced. He was 99.
But Graham was also an influential voice at the top levels of the political world for decades. His relationship with American presidents dated back to Harry Truman. He was close to Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush, and President George W. Bush has credited a talk he had with Graham in the 1980s with inspiring his faith in God and helping him quit drinking. Graham was also close to Ronald Reagan and was, according to the Los Angeles Times, one of the few people who was invited to visit him as his Alzheimer’s symptoms worsened. Politicians whose spiritual lives were touched by Graham were quick to respond to the news of his death Wednesday.
President Trump tweeted that Graham would be missed.
The first lady said Graham led an “impactful life” and would be “deeply missed.”
President Barack Obama tweeted his condolences, calling Graham a “humble servant who prayed for so many.”
President Bill Clinton released a statement on behalf of his family, calling Graham “one of the most important religious leaders in American history,”
Clinton said Graham extended “constant kindness encouragement and counsel” to him and Hillary Clinton, adding “his powerful words and the conviction they carried touched countless hearts and minds.”
President Jimmy Carter said in a statement that Graham shaped the spiritual lives of tens of millions of people worldwide.”
“Broad-minded, forgiving, and humble in his treatment of others, he exemplified the life of Jesus Christ by constantly reaching out for opportunities to serve. He had an enormous influence on my own spiritual life, and I was pleased to count Reverend Graham among my advisors and friends,” the statement added.
Jim McGrath, the spokesman for President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush, released a statement on behalf of the president calling Graham a “dear friend” and “America’s pastor.”
Graham became a counselor and confidante to nearly every American president, beginning with Harry Truman, but Graham himself denied he had a role in making policy. He said: “I don’t advise them, I pray with them.”
Vice President Mike Pence, a devout Christian, issued a statement early Wednesday morning with his wife Karen, sending their condolences to the Graham family:
“Karen and I were saddened to learn of the passing of one of the greatest Americans of the 20th century, Reverend Billy Graham. We send our deepest condolences to the Graham family. Billy Graham’s ministry for the gospel of Jesus Christ and his matchless voice changed the lives of millions. We mourn his passing but I know with absolute certainty that today he heard those words, “well done good and faithful servant.” Thank you Billy Graham. God bless you.”
While both the House and Senate are out of session this week, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, commented from home, calling Graham “one of the greatest messengers of Christ.”
He added that Graham was a “counselor to presidents, a pastor to the masses, and most of all — a loving, caring, husband, father, and grandfather.”
Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee called Graham “an American icon” who gave “hope to millions of people in our country and around the world.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement that Graham’s service is a “testament that, with faith in God, one person can do so much good for the world.”
He added, “Beyond his achievements as a preacher and counselor to presidents, Rev. Graham will be remembered as a devoted husband to the late Ruth Bell Graham and a loving family man. The whole House sends its condolences to the Graham family at this time of loss.”
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reflected on Graham being a trusted confidant to presidents, saying, “by standing right in the middle, Billy Graham could reach everyone.”
“We’re left with a fitting reminder that, just like the wise man of the Gospel, he built his house on the rock. Millions of Americans are grateful that he did—and are confident that Billy Graham is now alongside his beloved wife Ruth, enjoying their beautiful reward,” McConnell added.
Ohio Governor John Kasich said he was “truly inspired” by Graham’s preaching. “Billy Graham was about love, forgiveness, and hope. Every preacher should learn from him,” he added.
Former mayor and philanthropist Mike Bloomberg shared a photo of the two in New York during what Bloomberg called his “final crusade.”
This story was originally published in cbsnews