a Young Billy Graham giving a speech

 

Written by Tim Funk, Bruce Henderson, and Lavendrick Smith, The Charlotte Observer

 

Billy Graham has come home.

 

A hearse carrying the body of the Charlotte-born evangelist arrived at the library bearing his name Saturday afternoon. It was part of a 10-car motorcade, complete with police escort, that departed from his ministry’s training center in Asheville a few hours earlier.

 

“My father made me promise long ago that we would take him back to Charlotte after he died,” Graham’s son, Franklin, tweeted from the motorcade.

 

Along the 130-mile route, the motorcade was met by Billy Graham admirers who lined up by the hundreds, even by the thousands, along mountain town roads, interstate highways and Charlotte city streets. They waved Bibles, took pictures with their phones, held up “Thank You” signs, and hoisted American and Christian flags. One man near Marion even played bagpipes to honor the man who began life on a dairy farm and went on to become a globe-trotting preacher and pastor to U.S. presidents.

 

“He was a powerful speaker who made you pay attention,” said Steven Culpepper, who waited for the motorcade at the corner of Stonewall Avenue and South Boulevard in Charlotte. He was joined by wife Carol and 13-year-old son, Ethan.

 

“We believe in the Jesus message he was preaching,” said Carol, who described her nights singing in the choir at Graham’s 1996 crusade in Charlotte as “a little bit like heaven on earth.”

 

Also eager to witness Graham’s return to Charlotte was Kristin Whittaker. The 24-year-old production worker for NASCAR said she was there to salute this historical figure whose crusades had shaped some of her older family members.

 

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