Washington [US], Mar 1 (ANI): US President Donald Trump on Wednesday honoured reverend Christian figure Billy Graham at a rare memorial ceremony in the Capitol rotunda here, a week after the 99-year-old evangelist died at his home in North Carolina.
The President gently touched the bare wood of Billy Graham's casket, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan bowed his head, and hundreds of other lawmakers, family and friends stood in a rare salute to the "extraordinary life".
"He ministered to all walks, from some of the greats whose statues line this hall - Eisenhower, King, Ford, and Reagan - to the everyday citizens lining up today to pay their respects," said Ryan, gesturing to Graham's casket under the eye of the Capitol Rotunda.
Graham's life began as a "North Carolina farm boy" who grew to lead "a nationwide revival", said the President during the ceremony, adding that his acceptance of "Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior" not only changed our country, "it changed, in fact, the entire world".
The President said it was the fourth time a private citizen had lain in honour in the rotunda, following two Capitol Police officers killed in the line of duty in 1998 and civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks in 2005.
The occasion must be approved by Congress, according to the federal agency that maintains the Capitol.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said at Graham's memorial service: "His clear voice thundered through packed tents, stadiums, auditoriums, parks and plazas the world over."
"His warmth and graciousness lit up living rooms and touched hundreds of millions of hearts."
Graham over the course of his six-decade-long career preached to more than 200 million people in nearly 200 countries, including London, Tokyo, Seoul, Bogota, Moscow, New Delhi, Saigon, Johannesburg, and scores of other places all over the world.
"The GREAT Billy Graham is dead. There was nobody like him! He will be missed by Christians and all religions. A very special man," the President had tweeted at Graham's demise.
Although Trump attended a 2013 birthday celebration for the then-95-year-old, by the time Trump took office, Graham was keeping a lower profile, and his son William Franklin Graham III had a closer relationship with the President.
"And like the faithful of Charlotte once did, today we say a prayer for our country that all across this land the Lord will rise up men and women like Billy Graham to spread a message of love and hope to every precious child of God," the President said, praising the late "America's pastor".
The President said Graham when 15 years old accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.
"The North Carolina farm boy walked out of those fields, into a great and beautiful history. Starting at a small Bible school in Florida, he soon led a nationwide revival - from a large tent in Los Angeles to 100,000 people in a single day at Yankee Stadium, to more than two million people at Madison Square Garden, over 16 weeks in 1957," the President stated.
Trump said the "ambassador for Christ, who reminded the world of the power of prayer and the gift of God's grace, carried his message around the world, but his heart, as Franklin will tell you, and was always in America".
Graham's influence stretched far beyond the city where he counselled presidents and lawmakers. He had met every President; Trump included, and counselled most.
Graham felt burned by former President Richard Nixon for years. Nixon's White House tapes released in 2002 included Graham's voice telling him that Jews "don't know how I really feel about what they're doing to this country". He apologized for his statement.
Former President Bill Clinton recalled seeing one of Graham's crusades as a child, a profound experience that became more amazing over his life. Graham counselled him as Arkansas Governor, and later as President in the White House itself.
Former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura visited Graham's home earlier in the week.(ANI)