Renowned Christian evangelist, Rev. Billy Graham , popular for his worldwide crusades and role as adviser to decades of U.S. presidents, has passed away.
99-year-old Graham died on Wednesday at his home in Montreat, N.C, Todd Shearer of DeMoss Associates said.
Graham, who had been in ill health for a number of years, was regularly listed in polls as one of the “Ten Most Admired Men in the World.”
Shearer told Fox News that Graham died from “natural causes.”
His Christian crusades took him from the frenzy of Manhattan to isolated African villages and according to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website, he preached to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history.
The BGEA put his lifetime audience at nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories, with “hundreds of millions more” viewing him on television, video, film and webcasts.
“My one purpose in life,” he said, “is to help people find a personal relationship with God, which, I believe, comes through knowing Christ.”
Graham was last hospitalized in 2011 at Mission Hospital in Asheville, N.C. for what was described as “evaluation and treatment of his lungs.” He was also hospitalized that year due to pneumonia.
William Franklin Graham Jr. was born Nov. 7, 1918 and raised on a dairy farm in Charlotte, N.C.
At 15, he made his personal commitment to Christ at a revival meeting in Charlotte. After attending Bob Jones College and the Florida Bible Institute, Graham was ordained a Southern Baptist clergyman in 1939.
In 1943, he graduated from Wheaton College, where he met fellow student Ruth McCue Bell, daughter of a medical missionary, who had spent the first 17 years of her life in China.
They married in August 1943 and had five children, 19 grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren.
Ruth Graham died in June 2007 after 64 years of marriage.
Graham vaulted to national prominence with his 1948 Los Angeles crusade, scheduled for three weeks and extended to eight.
In 1950, Graham founded the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, based in Minneapolis, Minn. until it relocated to Charlotte in 2003.
Through the BGEA he conducted his weekly “Hour of Decision” radio program and published “Decision” Magazine as well as producing television programs for Christian networks.
In addition, Graham wrote 33 books, including his autobiography “Just As I Am.” His last book, “Where I Am: Heaven, Eternity, And Our Life Beyond The Now” was published in 2015.
In the 1960s, he ardently opposed segregation, refusing to speak to segregated audiences.