Reverend Billy Graham, known by many as “America’s Pastor,” passed on from this life on February 21, 2018. Americans honored his life and legacy as he lay in honor in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol building. It was truly remarkable how many individuals and families traveled from all across our great country to participate in this celebration of Reverend Graham’s life.
Reverend Graham spent his life witnessing – in person – to an estimated 215 million people in 185 countries, not to mention the countless lives he touched through those who watched him on television and listened to him on the radio. From 1947 to 2005, Reverend Graham led roughly 417 crusades using his talents and convictions to bring others to Christ. He was loved by many throughout the world and appeared on Gallup’s poll of most admired men and women every year since they first asked this question in 1955.
Lying in honor or lying in state is a rare act of recognition granted to especially noteworthy citizens or public officials after they pass on from this world. The person’s casket is placed in the rotunda of the Capitol building for public viewing so that Americans and people from across the world have the opportunity to pay their respects. Reverend Graham was the fourth private citizen in our nation’s history to lie in honor – he was preceded by Ms. Rosa Parks in 2005.
Reverend Graham created a remarkable history with stops in Alabama throughout his career. In 1962, he stepped off a plane in Huntsville to lead his first crusade in our state where he spoke to a crowd of 35,000 people. A couple of years later, after the horrific Birmingham church bombing, Reverend Graham returned to Alabama and held his 1964 Easter rally at Legion Field. During this tragic time of uncertainty, he offered a message of hope to more than 35,000 Alabamians.
The following year, after the attacks during the landmark march from Selma to Montgomery, President Lyndon B. Johnson asked Reverend Graham to visit Alabama yet again. He accepted this invitation and led crusades at Auburn University, the University of Alabama, Tuskegee University, and he also made a stop in Dothan. Throughout these crusades, Reverend Graham had a single mission: to bring all people together regardless of race, social status, occupation, background, or faith, to hear the word of God.
Reverend Graham knew what he believed and why he believed it – and he truly lived out his faith through his exemplary life. His message was not for one select group, but for every man and woman from every walk of life. Reverend Graham’s voice touched millions, whether at Sunday services in his Charlotte, North Carolina, church, a rally in an Alabama stadium, a military base overseas, or on the home televisions of many families all over the country.
I believe the many personal stories and experiences that have been shared after Reverend Graham’s passing are a true testament to his character and the impact he had on our country and throughout the world. America’s Pastor was certainly a good and faithful servant, and I’m confident his legacy will continue to shine through the lives of the many, many people he inspired.
Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama with her husband Riley and their two children.