Billy Graham Immortalized in Bronze at the US Capitol

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On a sunny Thursday, in the grand halls of the U.S. Capitol, the larger-than-life bronze statue of the late Rev. Billy Graham, fondly referred to as “America’s Pastor”, was unveiled. The likeness of the Charlotte-born minister, immortalized in the corridors of Congress, pays tribute to North Carolina’s most renowned evangelist.

The inauguration, held within the National Statuary Hall, was attended by a litany of esteemed personalities. This luminous roster boasted of House Speaker Mike Johnson, Gov. Roy Cooper, former Vice President Mike Pence, state congressional and legislative members, and the Graham family.

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The statue, towering at 7-foot (2.13-meter) tall, is one of two that each state in the U.S. is entitled to install within the Capitol – a symbol of celebrating and honoring their illustrious figures. The nine-year-long process to replace one of North Carolina’s statues with Graham’s has now come to fruition.

“Billy Graham finally takes his rightful place on these hallowed grounds of American democracy,” declared Johnson, the Republican leader from Louisiana during the dedication ceremony. Alongside him, other speakers reminisced about Graham’s profound impact on their lives and families through his virtuous ministry of preaching the Christian gospel.

Billy Graham, having spent most of his life in the scenic mountain community of Montreat, passed away in 2018 at the ripe age of 99. His legacy as the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history is unparalleled. According to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, he preached in person to nearly 215 million people worldwide. His last large-scale meetings, or crusades as they were known, were held in New York in 2005.

He was also an adviser of presidents, ranging from Dwight Eisenhower to George W. Bush, with his ministry career influencing both political and spiritual realms. Such has been his clout that after his death, his body lay in honor in the Capitol Rotunda. At that point in time, Graham was only the fourth private citizen to receive such a distinction.

Notable attendees highlighted Graham’s unwavering commitment to preaching the Christian message, his humble nature, and his integrity. His legacy of service for future generations framed a major part of their discourse.

The Rev. Franklin Graham, the evangelist’s son, noted that his father, if he had been present that day, would have indeed felt a little uncomfortable as he would have preferred the focus to be on the one he so fervently preached about – Lord Jesus Christ.

The newly installed Graham statue replaces one of early-20th century North Carolina Gov. Charles Aycock, whose ties to the white supremacy movement have led to his fall from grace.

Graham, although not a social activist in the traditional sense, integrated his Southern crusades in 1953, a step ahead of the Supreme Court’s school integration ruling. He adamantly refused to visit South Africa while its white regime insisted on racially segregated meetings. Later in life, he expressed regret at not battling more actively for civil rights.

In the words of Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat and someone who heard Graham speak during his youth in a Raleigh stadium – “We acknowledge that he is a better representation of our state than the statue it replaces, which brought memories of a painful history of racism. Not that Rev. Graham was perfect – he believed, as many of us do, that there is redemption.”

The statue is the brainchild of Charlotte-based artist Chas Fagan and was bronzed in the state. With the base crafted from local granite, two verses from the Book of John that allude to Graham’s evangelistic ministry are inscribed onto it.

This is North Carolina’s second statue in the National Statuary Hall. The first one is of Civil War-era Gov. Zebulon Vance, also a Confederate military officer and U.S. senator.

Throughout the 20th century, Graham was pivotal in turning evangelicalism into a commanding force in American life. His ministry, marked by the widespread use of mass media like a daily newspaper column, network radio, and prime-time telecasts of his crusades, resonated with Christian believers worldwide – even those in communist countries.

U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, a Republican from North Carolina, expressed hope that Graham’s statue serve as a beacon, inspiring leaders to come together and bridge their differences. “I hope when members of Congress walk by his statue, they reflect on the standards of faith, ethics and decency that he exemplified throughout his extraordinary life. I believe that his presence here in the Capitol can help us find opportunities to unite around what makes our nation great,” he said.