North Carolina reveres native son Billy Graham in halls of Congress

North Carolina reveres native son Billy Graham in halls of Congress

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (left) and Capitol Hill Republicans applaud as a bronzed sculpture of the late Rev. Billy Graham was unveiled Thursday at the U.S. Capitol, where it will stand on behalf of his native North Carolina. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

North Carolina reveres native son Billy Graham in halls of Congress

The late Rev. Billy Graham – arguably America's most well-known modern-day evangelist and teacher of the gospel of Christ – will continue to have an influence on the nation's elected officials … if they slow down long enough to read the inscriptions on his just-revealed statue.

A statue of the late evangelist Billy Graham was unveiled Thursday in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. The bronze statue in National Statuary Hall shows Graham standing tall with an open Bible in his left hand and his right gesturing toward it. The seven-foot-tall statue is one of two chosen by the people of North Carolina to represent their state.

The statue of the revered evangelist is engraved on one side with John 3:16 (For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life); and John 14:6 (Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me") on the other.

House Speaker Mike Johnson opened the ceremony, noting that only four people in American history have received the three highest honors in the Capitol: the Congressional Gold Medal, having lied in state upon their passing, and having a statue placed in Statuary Hall.

"Two of them were presidents – Presidents Ford and Reagan – and one is Rosa Parks," Johnson explained. "And the other, as of today, will be Reverend Billy Graham."

North Carolina Sen. Ted Budd took inspiration from Graham and gave an invitation.

"Friends, God's grace is undeserved, but through Christ it is freely given – and it is by trusting in Christ's sacrifice that we are saved," said Budd. "If you've not made that decision for yourself, I hope, I pray that you will."

Sen. Thom Tillis, who also represents North Carolina, said he hopes Graham's ability to bridge differences will filter down today to elected officials.

"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," Tillis said. "I believe that his presence here in the Capitol can help us find opportunities to unite around what makes our nation great."

Franklin Graham, the evangelist's son, said that indeed, his father always wanted second billing: "My father would be a little uncomfortable with this [statue] being here because he would want the focus to be on the One that he preached. He'd want the focus to be on the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God."

Christian artist Michael W. Smith talked about sharing hymns with Graham in his last days, and said one of those songs would be a good theme verse for the evangelist's life: "I Surrender All."

Graham, who was born in Charlotte and lived most of his adult life in the mountain community of Montreat, died in 2018 at age 99. He was the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history, preaching in person to nearly 215 million people worldwide, according to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. His last large-scale crusades were held in New York in 2005.