The Rev. Billy Graham, who became the face of evangelical preaching and crusading in the U.S. and around the world, died on Feb. 21 at the age of 99 from cancer and pneumonia.

Rev. Graham was a spiritual leader to his global flock, but he provided spiritual advice to world leaders and U.S. presidents, from Dwight Eisenhower to George W. Bush. Graham enjoyed a particularly close relationship with President Richard Nixon, and was said by insiders to be one of the few people the controversial president really respected. Graham even had a private audience with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in 1956.

Rev. Graham was born in 1918 in Charlotte, N.C., and raised by religious family on a dairy farm. After graduating from Christian college, he started preaching evangelical revivals on radio in L.A. in 1949. Encouraged by the early success, he parlayed this into a massive global ministry, which saw him preach in 185 countries. Eventually he became an Evangelical superstar, the “Pope of Protestant America” by Time Magazine.

With handsome looks, sparkling charisma and boundless energy, Graham spent most of the second half of the 20th century on a perpetual crusade, travelling the world with the Billy Graham Evangelical Association. Graham spread his Christian message by becoming an omnipresent figure, appearing  radio, television, print and speaking in stadiums around the world (including five times in Canada).

And while his message didn’t resonate with everyone, especially those on the political left, and people didn’t always follow his advice, Graham was always appreciated for his honesty and resolve, which explains why he made Gallup’s 10 “most admired people in the world” over 50 times.

He never got rich like other charlatan preachers. Nor did he get caught up in sex scandals. And he never used his tremendous name recognition to run for political office.

Instead, he remained true to the evangelical message that begins and ends with the Gospel of Christ.

The Rev. Billy Graham’s life in quotes

  • “No one can outrun death. It will catch up to all of us eventually.”
  • “I look forward to death with great anticipation, to meeting God face to face.”
  • “Growing old has been the greatest surprise of my life.”
  • “My home is in Heaven. I’m just traveling through this world.”
  • “I don’t think there is a single social issue I haven’t spoken on.”
  • “I have never changed my message. I preach the Bible, and I preach it with authority.”
  • “Every day is a gift from God, no matter how old we are.”
  • “Prayer is simply a two-way conversation between you and God.”
  • “I’ve read the last page of the Bible. It’s all going to turn out all right.”
  • “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.”
  • “When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.”
  • “Racism and injustice and violence sweep our world, bringing a tragic harvest of heartache and death.”