The Rev. Billy Graham died at age 99 in his home in North Carolina, networks reported Wednesday.
The evangelical Christian is famous for the massive evangelistic rallies he held all over the globe, later known as crusades, in which he delivered a straightforward message of the gospel that struck a chord with millions. He served as an adviser to several U.S. presidents, and is considered one of the most influential Christian preachers of the 20th century.
A spokesman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association confirmed his death Wednesday morning to several news outlets and released a brief statement saying he died at 7:46 a.m. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1992 and was hospitalized several times in recent years for a pulmonary condition, and had battled cancer, pneumonia and other health issues.
Graham is estimated to have reached some 215 million people in 185 countries with the Christian message to turn from sin and trust in Jesus Christ, in part because of his pioneering use of television and radio. He largely retired from his ministry after holding a final crusade in New York City in 2005, and passed his mission over to his son, Franklin Graham. In a final recorded sermon released in 2013, Graham said he’s “wept” for America.
“Our country’s in great need of a spiritual awakening,” he said. “There have been times that I’ve wept as I’ve gone from city to city and I’ve seen how far people have wandered from God.”
Graham advised numerous presidents including Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and was a friend of Queen Elizabeth. President Ronald Reagan awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1993.