95th birthday bash for Billy Graham
Published 08/11/2013 | 03:11
US evangelist the Rev Billy Graham celebrated his 95th birthday at a huge party, with well-wishers serenading and praising him for his spiritual leadership.
Around 900 people attended the two-hour party for the North Carolina-born preacher at an Asheville hotel.
Mr Graham's son acknowledged beforehand that it would not be a long party. "We're going to have a short evening," the Rev Franklin Graham said. "Daddy's 95."
Mr Graham senior was flanked by property mogul Donald Trump and US former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Franklin Graham said former president Bill Clinton, who had been listed as one of the guests, could not attend.
"Billy Graham, we need you around another 95 years," Ms Palin said. "We need Billy Graham's message to be heard, I think, today more than ever."
The event began with the debut of a new video of Billy Graham from his home as part of a nationwide religious outreach called My Hope.
The video features clips of Mr Graham filmed this year at his home in Montreat. Also included are audio excerpts of his early days, when he took his crusades around the nation and the world.
The elder Graham has been in hospital for a number of health-related issues in the past few years and now uses a wheelchair. While he was not due to make a speech, he did offer thanks to Cliff Barrows, who led the choirs that sang at Billy Graham crusades for decades. Mr Barrows returned the favour.
"Happy Birthday, dear Bill. I thank God for every remembrance of you," Mr Barrows said.
Fox News host Greta Van Susteren directed the crowd to sing Happy Birthday twice to Mr Graham. Among those on the stage singing were country singer Ricky Scaggs and Today TV host Kathie Lee Gifford.
Each table had a cupcake with a candle in it, and a medallion noting the birthday celebration.