Here is a sampling of the countless tributes to one of the 20th century’s most influential figures, the Rev. Billy Graham, who died Wednesday at the age of 99 at his home in Montreat, North Carolina.
Among the people reacting to the news are five former U.S. presidents as well as the current chief executive. Graham developed influential relationships with 11 presidents, from Harry Truman to George W. Bush.
Bush recalled in an interview many years ago that at a time when he was a cynic and a heavy drinker with many questions about faith, Graham had an “enormous influence” on his life, helping him “understand the redemptive power of a risen Lord.”
In a statement Wednesday, the former president said Graham’s “love for Christ and his gentle soul helped open hearts to the Word, including mine.”
President Trump: “The GREAT Billy Graham is dead. There was nobody like him! He will be missed by Christians and all religions. A very special man.”
Vice President Mike Pence: “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.”
Former President Barack Obama: “Billy Graham was a humble servant who prayed for so many – and who, with wisdom and grace, gave hope and guidance to generations of Americans.”
Former President George W. Bush: “A great man, a humble servant, and a shepherd to millions has passed on. Billy Graham was a consequential leader. He had a powerful, captivating presence and a keen mind. He was full of kindness and grace. His love for Christ and his gentle soul helped open hearts to the Word, including mine. Laura and I are thankful for the life of Billy Graham, and we send our heartfelt condolences to the Graham family.”
Former President Bill Clinton and former secretary of state, senator and first lady Hillary Clinton: “Hillary and I are saddened by the passing of our friend Billy Graham, one of the most important religious leaders in American history. His powerful words and the conviction they carried touched countless hearts and minds.
“I will never forget the first time I saw him, 60 years ago in Little Rock, during the school integration struggle. He filled a football stadium with a fully integrated audience, reminding them that we all come before God as equals, both in our imperfection and our absolute claim to amazing grace.
“Later as Governor, in the White House, and afterward, I saw him live that faithfully in the constant kindness, encouragement, and counsel he extended to Hillary and me.
“Billy has finished his long good race, leaving our world a better place and claiming his place in glory.”
Former President George H.W. Bush: “Billy Graham was America’s pastor. His faith in Christ and his totally honest evangelical spirit inspired people across the country and around the world. I think Billy touched the hearts of not only Christians, but people of all faiths, because he was such a good man. I was privileged to have him as a personal friend. He would come to Maine to visit with Barbara and me, and he was a great sport. He loved going really fast in my boat. I guess you could say we had that in common. Then we would come home and talk about life. He was a mentor to several of my children, including the former president of the United States. We will miss our good friend forever.”
Former President Jimmy Carter: “Rosalynn and I are deeply saddened to learn of the death of The Reverend Billy Graham. Tirelessly spreading a message of fellowship and hope, he 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.”
Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential nominee: “Billy Graham lifted eyes toward heaven and instilled heaven’s values in hearts. The world mourns this man of character, this man of God.”
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Roman Catholic archbishop of New York: “There was no question that the Dolans were a Catholic family, firm in our faith, but in our household there was always respect and admiration for Billy Graham and the work he was doing to bring people to God. As an historian, my admiration for him only grew as I studied our nation’s religious past, and came to appreciate even more the tremendous role he played in the American evangelical movement. May the Lord that Billy Graham loved so passionately now grant him eternal rest.”
Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King Jr.: “The lives of my family have been personally intertwined with those of Dr. Graham and his family throughout our lifetime. My ‘Uncle ML,’ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ministered with Dr. Billy in New York at Madison Square Gardens during the 1950s. Together, in living color, bridging the racial divide, they debunked the colorblind myth; revealing the mystery of Acts 16:26 – One Blood, One Human Race.”
Philip Ryken, president, Wheaton College “The Wheaton College family worldwide grieves his death with members of the Graham family and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association team, and rejoices with them that this beloved servant of the Lord has completed his journey and is at home with his Savior. A special memorial website for Billy Graham is available at wheaton.edu/billygraham.”
Robert George, professor, Princeton University and a former chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom: “Billy Graham was like John Paul II, Abraham Joshua Heschel, and Martin Luther King, Jr. He was firmly rooted in a particular tradition of faith, yet somehow spoke to – and in a sense belonged to – all of us.”
John Piper, pastor and author: “This morning I have been singing his songs (‘Just as I Am’ and ‘How Great Thou Art’). The flood of emotion they awaken, after a lifetime of profound associations, is a sweet sorrow. … While only God can rightly assess the ripple effect of a person’s life in all the ways it has influence, my own judgment would be that Billy Graham’s greatest impact is the eternal difference he made in leading countless persons, from all over the world, out of destruction into everlasting joy and love. This was his primary mission. ‘Because God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16).”
Evangelist Greg Laurie: A great man of God, Billy Graham has gone to Heaven. Heaven is richer and earth poorer as a result. Billy preached the Gospel to more people then any person who has ever lived. He was the same man privately that he was publicly. Billy was the most Christ-like man I have ever met.”
Don Moen, singer-songwriter, pastor and producer of Christian worship music: I was privileged to minister with Billy Graham many years ago at his South African crusade in Johannesburg. But my greatest memory is the fact that my father in law (an Amish man) somehow heard Billy Graham preaching the simple message of salvation on a transistor radio (forbidden in the Amish) in 1959. He knelt down in a field and gave his life to Christ. His words, “the sky got bluer, the trees and grass got greener.” Because of that moment, the entire family was saved, including my sweet Laura!
Pat Boone, entertainer: “I’ve been deeply privileged to know the single greatest man of our times. Billy offered G’s eternal salvation, through Jesus, to hundreds of millions around the world!!”
Paul Ryan, House speaker: “Rev. Billy Graham dedicated his life to proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every part of the world. His service is a testament that, with faith in God, one person can do so much good. The whole House sends its condolences to the Graham family at this time of loss.”
Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor: “While the critics came and went, his influence was bigger than any of the people who temporarily held an office or had a fortune. His power was never his, but that of Christ, and his fortune was massive, but not on earth, but stored in the incorruptible vaults of heaven.”
Newt Gingrich, former House speaker: “Reverend Billy Graham dedicated his life to teaching the Gospel of salvation through Christ. He offered hope to millions around the world, and his message will continue to guide generations to come.”
Greg Abbott, governor of Texas: “The Rev. Billy Graham left an indelible mark on America and the world. His passion to serve God and share His love touched countless Texans over the years.
John Bolton, former U.N. ambassador: “Rev. Billy Graham spent a lifetime sharing his love of God to the world, inspiring millions with a message of hope. Today we mourn the loss of one of America’s great pastors, but we can take solace in knowing he is home.”
Tony Dungy, former NFL head coach: “One of the great privileges I have had in my life was to meet and introduce Dr Billy Graham at a Crusade at Raymond James Stadium. Truly one of the most inspiring men of our generation.”
Tony Perkins, president Family Research Council: “Billy Graham finished well. He truly lived a life of integrity that each follower of Jesus Christ can emulate. His fear of disappointing the One who created him was so strong that he avoided the temptations and pitfalls that have brought others down. His example of servant-leadership will continue to inspire Christians around the world to be salt and light. What a joyous moment it had to be when Dr. Billy Graham heard the words that he has longed to hear from his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, ‘Well done good and faithful servant.”
Michael Farris, president, CEO of Alliance Defending Freedom: “Billy Graham inspired millions, from heads of state to missionaries, from clergy to teenagers. He was especially inspirational to those of us engaged in the defense and protection of religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family. His faithful preaching of God’s word, biblical morality, and his lifelong zeal for the Kingdom has inspired me in my walk as a husband, father, minister, attorney, college president, and in my current work for ADF. His legacy will live on in the hearts, souls, and minds of all those who work tirelessly to proclaim the Good News and the healing power of Jesus Christ. May God comfort his family and his countless friends, and may God continue to richly bless the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.”
Penny Nance, CEO and president of Concerned Women for America: “We are now a nation without a pastor, and we pray for the man whom God will raise up in his stead. Rev. Graham lived an extraordinary life marked by his passion for reaching those who did not know the name of Jesus. His reverence, integrity, service, and dedication to the ministry of Christ touched millions of lives around the world, including many CWA members. It is not uncommon to hear stories of God’s mighty transformation in the life of many that turn on the phrase, ‘then I went to a Billy Graham crusade.’
“While we mourn the loss of a man who left an indelible print of love and service in our world, we also know there is a beautiful homecoming taking place in Heaven. When asked once if he feared death, Rev. Graham simply answered, ‘No! I look forward to death with great anticipation. I’m looking forward to seeing God face to face.’
“Billy Graham was a true man of God, and his legacy and ministry will continue to impact future generations. We praise God for his life!”
David Crowder, Christian recording artist: “I wish I could have heard heaven this morning. This earth is now lacking his presence in the body but it pines and rings with the eternity that his life and words were the containers of, until this place is made whole again. Long live Billy Graham.”
Sean Hannity, Fox News Channel host: “Reverend Billy Graham, You will be missed by the many millions of people around the globe whose hearts you have touched. @PastorDScott is correct. “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” Our prayers for @Franklin_Graham and his family.”
Tim Wildmon, president American Family Association: “I’ve been around thousands and thousands of Christians over the past three decades, and I often survey how they came to know Christ. Billy Graham is always the No. 1 name mentioned, especially for Baby Boomers. What a great life of service to God!”
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League: Growing up Catholic in New York in the 1950s, the Catholic we most identified with was Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, the first televangelist. The Protestant we most clearly revered was Rev. Billy Graham. In both cases, they had no rival. For Catholics, Graham was more than just the titular head of the Protestant community, he was a man who inspired us. He was a man of prayer, and his deep spirituality was contagious. Moreover, his ecumenical efforts were legion.
“When Graham was at his peak, our culture was Christian-friendly, allowing him to follow a decidedly pastoral approach. Those ministers who came after him were forced to take a more aggressive public stance, owing to the advent of the culture war.
“I have one fond remembrance of him. In the late 1990s, he contacted me about some cruel story that had circulated about him – it made him out to be an anti-Catholic bigot. The story was completely bogus. I appreciated how seriously he took this issue, and how quickly he responded.
Rev. Billy Graham will be missed. I am happy that he is with our Lord.”
Kristan Hawkin, president Students for Life of America President: “At a time in which so many leaders in politics, pulpits and entertainment have proven flawed, the Rev. Billy Graham stands as an example of humble leadership, noteworthy for not only his scandal-free life, but for his consistency in calling for a life of faith and service. He is an example for us all of dignity, integrity and tireless courage in communicating timeless truths with love and respect. He will be missed.”
Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel: “Billy Graham’s promotion to heaven today is a reminder that one person who is totally and humbly surrendered to the Lord can have an incredible eternal impact on the world. Billy Graham’s legacy will echo through eternity.”
Charles Crismier, president of Save America Ministries and author of “Hearts of the Fathers”: “Every great man leaves a lasting legacy. Billy Graham once told Larry King, ‘I say that God has a plan for us all. I believe there is a moment right now that God has set aside when I am to die. And there is a moment when I’ll die and I am looking forward to it, actually because I want to go to heaven.’ Evangelism is about leaving a legacy of faith. If we are measured by the yardstick of evangelism and discipleship, Graham fulfilled his call.”