US Capitol unveils statue honoring Billy Graham: 'One of our dearest treasures'

WASHINGTON — Faith leaders and politicians on both sides of the aisle gathered to honor the late evangelist Billy Graham as a sculpture honoring the North Carolina native was unveiled at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday.

Hundreds attended a private ceremony unveiling the 7-foot statue, which will be part of the National Statuary Hall Collection and installed in the Crypt one level below the Rotunda, where public tours of the US Capitol begin.

The event featured speeches from US House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., and Graham's son, Reverend Franklin Graham, CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the Evangelical humanitarian organization Samaritan's Purse. Grammy-winning Christian musician Michael W. Smith performed the son “I Surrender All.”

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Johnson unveiled the statue along with North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, the Graham family and several members of the state's congressional delegation.

Remembering Graham as “the leading ambassador for the kingdom of our lives,” Johnson remarked, “This is truly a historic moment.”

“There are only four people in the history of our country who have received the three highest honors here,” Johnson said.

“Those three honors are a Congressional Gold Medal, lying after his passing and having a statue here in the Capitol to be honored,” he noted.

Johnson identified the late presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan and civil rights activist Rosa Parks as the other recipients of all three honors.

Like many others in his family, Franklin Graham is also an evangelist and is grateful for his father's recognition in Statuary Hall.

“My father would be a little uncomfortable with this here because he would want the focus to be on the One he was preaching,” Graham said. “He would want the focus to be on the Lord Jesus Christ, the son of God.”

Graham insisted that the family is honored that their “earthly father will be here in that Capitol showing future generations to our Heavenly father and his son, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Billy Graham, who died in 2018 at the age of 99, is now one of two statues representing the state of North Carolina in the National Statuary Hall, which contains statues of famous people from each of the 50 states. Graham's statue replaces that of the late Governor Charles Brantley Aycock, which has been one of the state's two statues since 1932.

The another statue representing North Carolina features Zebul Vance, who served as governor and US senator from the state beginning in the Civil War era. The Vance statue dates from 1916.

According to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Graham preached to 215 million people across six continents and provided counsel to 12 American presidents in his lifetime.

Cooper, a Democrat, cited Graham as one of the several treasures given to the United States by his home state.

“Our state gave this nation its first flight, its first public university, its rich countryside,” he asserted. “Today, North Carolina gives the nation a symbol representing one of our dearest treasures, the Rev. Billy Graham: a man of faith, a North Carolina man.”

“The Reverend Graham was known as a minister to millions, the pastor to presidents, a devoted man of God who lived his calling by preaching and teaching around the world, always returning to his beloved home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. for respot ,” he added. “He brought together people of different faiths and different races.”

“Today, we acknowledge that he is a better representation of our state than the statue it replaces, which brought back memories of a painful history of racism. Not that Reverend Graham was perfect, he would be the first to tell us that. Instead . . , he realized that he and all of us here today have feet of clay. We are imperfect.”

Cooper expressed gratitude that Graham “believed as many of us do that there is redemption, and he gave his life to delivering that message.”

“The Rev. Billy Graham also recognized that the responsibility of public officials such as us and especially that of the president of the United States was so enormous that whoever was in that office deserved a presumption of good faith, the power of prayer, the gift of his wisdom, friendship and counsel.”

Cooper praised Graham's willingness to work with politicians on both sides of the aisle, saying he did not seek to “mash or deify any political candidate or party.”

“Instead, he would use his magnetic, loving and persuasive gifts to counsel and lift up in prayer political leaders of both parties,” Cooper said. “He did not aim to attack other religions, and he treated everyone with dignity and respect. In fact, he once said, 'Racial prejudice, anti-Semitism or hatred of anyone with different beliefs has no place in the human mind or heart.'

Cooper urged public officials to “honor his legacy not only by unveiling this statue but by being humble, humble enough to know that our public service is not to honor us but to serve our country and strengthen our democracy and humble enough to put aside personal aggrandizement. , to do better for our country, not for personal gain.”


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