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Crowds turn out to bid farewell to Rev Billy Graham

The evangelist, known as America’s Pastor, died aged 99 on Wednesday.

Mourners line the road through Black Mountain, as the motorcade carrying Rev Billy Graham passes by (John D. Simmons/The Charlotte Observer/AP)
Mourners line the road through Black Mountain, as the motorcade carrying Rev Billy Graham passes by (John D. Simmons/The Charlotte Observer/AP)

Crowds lined the streets as a motorcade carrying the body of the Rev Billy Graham passed through his home state of North Carolina in a running tribute to “America’s Pastor”.

Adults and children stood behind wooden barricades and yellow tape as police officers saluted and admirers captured the moment on mobile phones.

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Flowers and notes are left outside the Billy Graham Training Centre (Kathy Kmonicek/AP)

“He has never really revelled in all of the celebrity. It’s come with the territory,” said Joe Tyson, a family friend who watched the procession in Black Mountain.

“But they’ve managed to live a very normal life for such famous people. And I think he’d be very proud that his neighbors turned out and quietly celebrated his reward and his passage into heaven.”

The motorcade left the mountain chapel at the training centre operated by Graham’s evangelistic association in Asheville on a long drive along Interstate 40 to his library in Charlotte, the state’s largest city.

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Pallbearers carry the coffin of the Rev Billy Graham into a hearse (Kathy Kmonicek/AP)

It was a chance for residents in some of Graham’s favorite places to pay tribute. He often shopped or caught trains in Black Mountain. He maintained his home in the nearby community of Montreat.

The procession is part of more than a week of mourning that culminates with his burial March 2 at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte.

Dr Billy Graham the International Evangelist on his last visit to Belfat. 28/5/1972
Dr Billy Graham the International Evangelist on his last visit to Belfat. 28/5/1972
Dr Billy Graham the International Evangelist preaching in Ravenhill Presbyterian Church, Belfast. 28/5/1972
Dr Billy Graham the International Evangelist preaching in Ravenhill Presbyterian Church, Belfast. 28/5/1972
FILE - NOVEMBER 20: Evangelist Rev. Billy Graham, 95, was hospitalized with respiratory problems November 19, 2013 in Asheville, North Carolina. BALTIMORE - JULY 09: Evangelist Billy Graham preaches during the Metro Maryland 2006 Festival July 9, 2006 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland. Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, led the three-day-program filled with music, prayers and gospel messages. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
FILE - NOVEMBER 20: Evangelist Rev. Billy Graham, 95, was hospitalized with respiratory problems November 19, 2013 in Asheville, North Carolina. KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 7: The Rev. Billy F. Graham speaks to the crowd on a rainy night October 7, 2004 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. Graham is conducting his "Heart of America" crusade in Kansas City October 7-10. (Photo by Larry W. Smith/Getty Images)
Dr Billy Graham the International Evangelist preaching in Ravenhill Presbyterian Church, Belfast. 28/5/1972
Dr Billy Graham the International Evangelist preaching in Ravenhill Presbyterian Church, Belfast. 28/5/1972
File photo dated 11/03/52 of US evangelist Billy Graham, who has died at his home in North Carolina at the age of 99, a spokesman said. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday February 21, 2018. See PA story US Graham. Photo credit should read: PA Wire
File photo dated 25/02/82 of US evangelist Billy Graham, who has died at his home in North Carolina at the age of 99, a spokesman said. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday February 21, 2018. See PA story US Graham. Photo credit should read: PA Wire
File photo dated 01/01/66 of US evangelist Billy Graham, who has died at his home in North Carolina at the age of 99, a spokesman said. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday February 21, 2018. See PA story US Graham. Photo credit should read: PA Wire
File photo dated 17/05/82 of US evangelist Billy Graham, who has died at his home in North Carolina at the age of 99, a spokesman said. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday February 21, 2018. See PA story US Graham. Photo credit should read: PA Wire
File photo dated 14/06/89 of US evangelist Billy Graham, who has died at his home in North Carolina at the age of 99, a spokesman said. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday February 21, 2018. See PA story US Graham. Photo credit should read: PA Wire
File photo dated 31/05/89 of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher with US evangelist Billy Graham, who has died at his home in North Carolina at the age of 99, a spokesman said. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday February 21, 2018. See PA story US Graham. Photo credit should read: PA Wire
File photo dated 01/06/66 of US evangelist Billy Graham, who has died at his home in North Carolina at the age of 99, a spokesman said. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday February 21, 2018. See PA story US Graham. Photo credit should read: PA Wire
File photo dated 27/08/73 of Cliff Richard (left) with US evangelist Billy Graham, who has died at his home in North Carolina at the age of 99, a spokesman said. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday February 21, 2018. See PA story US Graham. Photo credit should read: PA Wire
File photo dated 20/06/67 of Cliff Richard (right) with US evangelist Billy Graham, who has died at his home in North Carolina at the age of 99, a spokesman said. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday February 21, 2018. See PA story US Graham. Photo credit should read: PA Wire
File photo dated 11/05/55 of US evangelist Billy Graham with his wife Ruth. Graham has died at his home in North Carolina at the age of 99, a spokesman said. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday February 21, 2018. See PA story US Graham. Photo credit should read: PA Wire
File photo dated 11/03/52 of US evangelist Billy Graham with his wife Ruth. Graham has died at his home in North Carolina at the age of 99, a spokesman said. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday February 21, 2018. See PA story US Graham. Photo credit should read: PA Wire
FILE - In this May 31, 2007 file photo, former Presidents, George H.W. Bush, left, Bill Clinton, second left, and Jimmy Carter, right, join Franklin Graham, second right, as they pose with Billy Graham, center, in front of the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C. Graham, who transformed American religious life through his preaching and activism, becoming a counselor to presidents and the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history, has died. Spokesman Mark DeMoss says Graham, who long suffered from cancer, pneumonia and other ailments, died at his home in North Carolina on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. He was 99. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)
FILE - In this June 27, 1954 file photo, Evangelist Billy Graham speaks to over 100,000 Berliners at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, Germany. Graham, who transformed American religious life through his preaching and activism, becoming a counselor to presidents and the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history, has died. Spokesman Mark DeMoss says Graham, who long suffered from cancer, pneumonia and other ailments, died at his home in North Carolina on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. He was 99. (AP Photo, File)
FILE - In this June 26, 2005 file photo, the Rev. Billy Graham speaks on stage on the third and last day of his farewell American revival in the Queens borough of New York. A spokesman said on Graham has died at his home in North Carolina at age 99. (AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams)
FILE - In this Oct 26, 1994 file photo, Evangelist Billy Graham begins his sermon in Atlanta's Georgia Dome. Graham, who transformed American religious life through his preaching and activism, becoming a counselor to presidents and the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history, has died. Spokesman Mark DeMoss says Graham, who long suffered from cancer, pneumonia and other ailments, died at his home in North Carolina on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. He was 99. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
FILE - In this July 7, 1954 file photo, Evangelist Billy Graham poses with his his wife, Ruth, and their three daughters on the Queen Mary following his arrival in New York. Graham, who transformed American religious life through his preaching and activism, becoming a counselor to presidents and the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history, has died. Spokesman Mark DeMoss says Graham, who long suffered from cancer, pneumonia and other ailments, died at his home in North Carolina on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. He was 99.(AP Photo)
FILE - In this Oct. 16, 1971 file photo, Evangelist Billy Graham and President Nixon wave to a crowd of 12,500 at ceremonies honoring Graham at Charlotte, N.C.
FILE - In this Dec. 20, 2010 file photo, evangelist Billy Graham, 92, speaks during an interview at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association headquarters in Charlotte, N.C. Graham, who transformed American religious life through his preaching and activism, becoming a counselor to presidents and the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history, has died. Spokesman Mark DeMoss says Graham, who long suffered from cancer, pneumonia and other ailments, died at his home in North Carolina on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. He was 99. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond, File)

Graham, who died Wednesday at his home in North Carolina’s mountains at age 99, reached hundreds of millions of listeners around the world with his rallies and his pioneering use of television.

A viewing will be held at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte on Monday and Tuesday. Graham will also lie in honour in the US Capitol Rotunda on Wednesday and Thursday, the first time a private citizen has been accorded such recognition since civil rights hero Rosa Parks in 2005.

He was such a wonderful man of God, and a messenger of God Ruby Sparks

Ruby Sparks, 85, attended a Graham youth ministry meeting in 1951, when she was a college student in Greensboro, North Carolina and met him in 1970.

“He was such a wonderful man of God, and a messenger of God,” she said.

Asked if there would ever be another force like his, she replied: “I doubt it. Perhaps, in my next, in another lifetime. Not in my lifetime.”

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Billy Graham died aged 99 on Wednesday (Nell Redmond/AP)

Graham will be laid to rest March 2 at the foot of a cross-shaped walkway at the library in Charlotte, buried in a simple prison-made plywood coffin next to his wife, Ruth, who died in 2007.

His coffin was built by inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana, who typically construct caskets for fellow prisoners who cannot afford one.

The funeral will be held in a tent in the main parking lot of Graham’s library in tribute to the 1949 Los Angeles tent revivals that propelled him to international fame, family spokesman Mark DeMoss said. About 2,000 people are expected at the private, invitation-only funeral.

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