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For Immediate Release

May 16, 2024

Contact: Taylor Haulsee

 

WASHINGTON — Today, Speaker Johnson hosted an unveiling ceremony for a statue depicting Reverend William “Billy” Franklin Graham Jr. of North Carolina and was joined by Members of Congress, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, and members of the Graham family. The statue, part of the National Statuary Hall Collection, will be displayed in Statuary Hall for decades to come.

 

Billy Graham preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ to more people than any single person in human history. While Graham’s primary focus was to preach the Gospel to the world, he also provided spiritual counsel to presidents, championed desegregation, and was a voice of hope and guidance in times of trial. Speaker Johnson called Graham, “one of America’s greatest citizens and enduring heroes.”

 

Learn more about Billy Graham’s life here and about the statue depicting Mr. Graham here.

 

Click here to watch the ceremony.

 

Read Speaker Johnon’s remarks below:

What an exciting day this has been, and what a fitting ceremony. You’ve heard emotion. You’ve heard authenticity. You’ve heard humility, and he embodied that for so much of us. He was the model in so many ways.

We want to thank you all again for being here. I have a couple of thoughts I want to share. Just briefly, first of all, of course, Scripture reminds us always to give honor where honor is due, and we give special thanks to the North Carolina State Statute Committee, Governor Cooper, of course, the North Carolina delegation. It’s an awesome group—you guys have sent an awesome group to Congress. And they’re ably led, of course, by the delegation dean, Miss Virginia Fox, and she’s amazing. And of course, the Billy Graham Evangelical Association, which has a massive, untold impact, an immeasurable impact around the world. Thank you for going through this lengthy process and making today possible.

I know here with us there are lots of dignitaries and many of my personal heroes. Senator and Secretary Elizabeth Dole from North Carolina is with us. by Billy Graham, Vice President Mike Pence. And he was mentioned earlier just briefly, but Chaz Fagan is the sculptor of this magnificent statue. I mentioned earlier, there’s only four Americans who have achieved the three highest honors here. One of the other men that achieved that great honor, I mentioned earlier, was President Ronald Reagan, and he’s another of my personal heroes. What you may not know is Mr. Fagan also created that statue, and that’s pretty awesome. It’s positioned prominently there in the rotunda.

While I stand before you as the Speaker of the House I’m more importantly here today as so many of us are as a believer, as a Christian, as a follower of Christ, and one who has been deeply impacted by the ministry of the Reverend Billy Graham.

 

It was in 1951 that Reverend Graham came to my hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana for one of his early crusades. He came at the invitation of Dr. M.E. Dodd, and Reverend Graham started preaching at our municipal auditorium. It’s a pretty famous place. It’s where Elvis—you know the phrase, ‘Elvis has left the building?’ Right there, municipal auditorium, it’s a very famous place. But the problem was that Reverend Graham was too popular, and the message was too impactful, and the crowds were so large, they had to move to the football field at our state fairgrounds in Shreveport. And those meetings in Shreveport became Reverend Graham’s very first outdoor crusades. Yes, you’re right. Right there in Shreveport, Louisiana. That’s right, At least that’s what we claim. I think it’s true. I think it’s true.

 

And over the course of three weeks, he preached to approximately 200,000 people, which is greater than the population of the whole northwest corner of the state, so they came in from all over the place. And one of the men who was present at those meetings seven decades ago led my own father to Christ. And other people who were present at those meetings were my childhood pastors and my Sunday school teachers, who all had a massive influence, of course, upon me. And the gospel they heard of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection is the gospel that they preached to me and my siblings, and everybody in my sphere of influence. And that’s the message that’s changed my life for eternity, and which Reverend Graham knew would change every person’s life.

 

It’s the good news of salvation, and redemption, and hope that you’ve heard articulated here today—that our Creator loved us so much, every one of us, that He gave his only Son so that every single person who believes in him can have that same gift of eternal life.

And even as he preached to hundreds of millions and ministered to, and walked with presidents and kings, what we love about Billy Graham is that he exemplified Christ’s humility, as you’ve heard today. He was buried—many people don’t remember—in a plywood casket that was fashioned by prisoners at Angola in Louisiana.

 

Reverend Graham humbled himself to care for the poor and prisoners, the forgotten, the lost and least of these, exactly what the Scripture tells us to do. He really did believe that—He believed that even the poorest sinner could be a co-heir with Christ for eternity, and that’s what motivated him. And those men who made his casket had come to believe that message too, and they believed it through the influence of Billy Graham and the Graham family.

 

And because Reverend Graham never pursued earthly riches—as was said, he’d probably be uncomfortable with this today, this great honor with such a great statue—but that humility is exactly why God exalted him and chose him and raised his platform to such great heights.

 

Billy Graham was known as America’s pastor, as was noted, and he had a personal relationship with, and a unique influence upon, every president since Harry Truman. And his body laid here in the Rotunda in February 2018 at laid in state. Throngs of people, of course, came through to pay their last respects, and all the members of Congress and everybody, dignitaries from all around, and tributes poured in. And they included all of the living former presidents.

 

Here’s a quick sample of some of the things they said. Donald Trump said, “Billy’s acceptance of Jesus Christ around his 17th birthday not only changed his life, it changed our country and the world. He was one of the towering figures of the last 100 years, an American hero whose life and leadership truly earned him the title God’s ambassador.”

Barack Obama tweeted this, “Billy Graham was a humble servant who prayed for so many and who, with wisdom and grace, gave hope and guidance to generations.”

 

George W. Bush said, ‘Those of us who are blessed to know Billy Graham benefited from his deep convictions and personal example, his wisdom and humility, his grace and purity of heart. We knew that his life was a gift from the Almighty, and I rejoice that he is now in the company of God, whom he loves so much and serves so well.”

 

Bill Clinton, he said, “Billy Graham was one of the most important religious leaders in American history. His powerful words and the conviction they carried touched countless hearts and minds.”

 

George H.W. Bush, they were very close, he said, “His faith in Christ and his totally honest evangelical spirit inspired people across the country and around the world. I think Billy touched the hearts of not only Christians, but people of all faiths, because he was such a good man. I was privileged to have him as a personal friend.”

 

One more, Jimmy Carter, he said, ‘The Reverend Billy Graham tirelessly spread the message of fellowship and hope and shaped the lives of tens of millions of people worldwide. Broad-minded, forgiving, and humble in his treatment of others, he exemplified the life of Jesus Christ by constantly reaching out for opportunities to serve.”

 

What a model for us. What a story to tell as we bring school kids through and university students and constituents. We’ll stop right here. I’ll be stopping right here every time to tell some of these stories.

 

At the foundation of the statue, as you mentioned, are these two verses, and those will be shared broadly now. In his left hand—just a couple of things I’ll note and I’ll close—he holds an open Bible, as you can see, and with an open right hand, he’s inviting all those to view and reflect upon the Word of God. His Bible is open specifically, you’d have to climb on a ladder to see it, but it’s Galatians 6, verse 14. Later I’ll climb up and take a picture and send it to you all, okay, but it’s there.

 

But I mentioned earlier I’m a little nervous, and one of the reasons I’m nervous is they handed me Billy Graham’s study Bible. I mean, it’s priceless, right? I’m about to shake just holding it right now. It’s got his notes inside. I know, I know. I need secret service to come and hand it off to him. But it’s open, as I said, to Galatians 6.14. Let me tell you what that verse is. Many of you know it by heart, but he has it underlined in red.

 

“But God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”

 

That’s a fitting verse to be open to, and as you can see, the page is well marked. It’s pretty awesome. This is the verse that Reverend Graham put on the banner of his life and in his final years. And to close, using one of his own marked up Bibles, that’s what we chose to share with you.

 

We want to thank you all for coming here today, for being a part of this very special ceremony. It was a long time coming, as we said, and all of you who helped truly to make this day possible. It’s a day for celebration, and so we invite you to stick around as long as you like and take photos as we all celebrate together the great legacy of the Reverend Billy Graham.

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