UPDATE: 'America's Pastor' evangelist Rev. Billy Graham dies at age of 99
Graham served as counselor to U.S. presidents. beginning with Democrat Harry Truman.
UPDATE: Long-time evangelist Reverend Billy Graham has died at the age of 99 at his home in North Carolina.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association confirmed his death to NBC News this morning.
The longtime evangelist appeared on Gallup’s list of most admired men and women 60 times since 1955 — every year the research company asked the question.
Graham served as counselor to U.S. presidents. beginning with Democrat Harry Truman and lasting through President Barack Obama six decades later. President George H.W. Bush, once called Graham "America's pastor."
Graham was known for his sense of humor and for maintaining a nonpartisan Christian view, which earned him some criticism. But his dedication to ministry and unity is long evident and best remembered in his refusal to pay heed to segregation policies, forcing churches to integrate for his services.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. counted Graham as a close friend and ally, once remarking, “Had it not been for the ministry of my good friend Dr. Billy Graham, my work in the Civil Rights Movement would not have been as successful as it has been.
"My one purpose in life is to help people find a personal relationship with God, which I believe comes through knowing Christ," he once said. “One of the primary goals in our lives should be to prepare for our last day. The legacy we leave is not just in our possessions, but in the quality of our lives."
Graham's parents were Presbyterians, but he converted to evangelical Christianity at age 15 after attending revival meetings. Strings of such revivals in large venues – he would label them crusades – would later become the hallmark of his ministry.
He briefly attended Bob Jones College in Tennessee before earning a degree in theology from the Florida Bible Institute in 1940. He also earned a degree in anthropology from Wheaton College in Illinois, where he met Ruth Bell, the daughter of Presbyterian missionaries in China. He and Bell married shortly after they graduated in 1943.
During his career, he preached in person to about 215 million people in 185 countries and territories worldwide.
“My home is in Heaven," he once said. "I'm just traveling through this world.”
This is a developing story.