RALEIGH — With his family and the governor looking on, and tearful testimonials from some of those he’s touched, the Rev. Billy Graham was honored as North Carolina’s “favorite son” Wednesday by the General Assembly.
The House and Senate each passed resolutions honoring the 94-year-old Graham and his late wife, Ruth.
“We’re really honored that the state would do this for my mother and father,” evangelist Franklin Graham said..
Franklin Graham and his sister, Anne Graham Lotz, joined family members and Gov. Pat McCrory in watching each chamber pay tribute to the senior Grahams.
The tributes began in each chamber with a 21/2-page resolution honoring the Charlotte native who went on to a lifetime of ministry and worldwide acclaim as well as his wife, a partner in his life and ministry.
According to a legislative researcher, Billy Graham appears to be the first North Carolinian recognized as a favorite son.
Leading tributes in the Senate was Sen. Dan Soucek of Boone, a Republican who once worked for Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse. He said Billy Graham embodies the Biblical admonition “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
In the House, Charlotte Republican Ruth Samuelson choked up when quoting Billy Graham describing his wife.
“Only God himself fully appreciates the influence of a Christian mother in the molding of character in her children,” quoted Samuelson, herself a mother of four.
Rep. Becky Carney, a Charlotte Democrat, recalled listening to Graham’s radio show as a child. GOP Rep. Larry Pittman, a Cabarrus County pastor, tearfully explained how his father had wanted to name him “Billy Graham” Pittman in honor of the evangelist.
Republican Rep. Dean Arp of Union County said his mother was saved at a Billy Graham crusade.
“The impact on lives the Grahams had,” he said, “they will never know this side of heaven.”
Graham, who is in frail health, has remained at home in Montreat. Saying they anticipated the resolution, McCrory aides released a March photo of the governor presenting Billy Graham with a proclamation at Graham’s home.
Rep. Edgar Starnes, a Caldwell County Republican, wrapped up the legislative tributes.
“He started a worldwide ministry,” he said of Graham, “yet he touched so many people individually right here at home.”