The Rev. Billy Graham, the Christian evangelist whose worldwide crusades and role as adviser to decades of U.S. presidents made him one of the best known religious figures of his time, has died. He was 99.
Graham became one of the best-known promoters of Christianity, beginning his worldwide mission in large arenas in London in 1954. He died at his home in Montreat, North Carolina, a spokesman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association said. In a 60-year career, he is estimated to have personally preached to 210 million people. Graham reached millions more through TV. He became a committed Christian at the age of 16 after hearing a travelling evangelist and was ordained a minister in 1939. He came to wider attention in the United States when he held a two-month ministry in a giant tent in Los Angeles in 1949.
At first ambivalent about the civil rights movement in the US, he went on to become a supporter in the 1950s with racially integrated congregations. Graham avoided the scandals which dogged some contemporary televangelists. His fiery delivery became more measured with advancing years and controversy surrounding the techniques of mass evangelism. Graham, a friend of US presidents from Truman to Nixon and Obama, preached his final revival meeting in New York in 2005 at the age of 86.