President Donald Trump said his father was an admirer of Mr Graham’s and that the “legendary” American figure deserved to be recognised in the place “where the memory of the American people is enshrined”.
He felt stung by the politics that helped define his life – but in death, the Rev Billy Graham received a rare tribute from America’s top political leaders under the Capitol Rotunda in Washington DC.
House speaker Paul Ryan said: “Here lies America’s pastor,” gesturing to Mr Graham’s casket under the eye of the dome, surrounded by family, friends, politicians and a ring of paintings of the nation’s founders.
“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.”
Senate majority Leader Mitch McConnell: “The man we recognise today shared the Gospel with more people, face-to-face, than anyone else in history.”
Mr Graham died a week earlier at age 99. Some 30 family members are accompanying Graham’s casket to Washington, where he befriended presidents of both parties and counselled others over seven decades.
The evangelist’s son, Franklin, tweeted a photo of family members loading the casket onto a jet emblazoned with “Samaritan’s Purse”, the name of a Christian relief charity that he chairs.
Mr Graham is lying in honour before a funeral on Friday near his home in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Rotunda entrances were draped with black fabric, and Mr Graham’s casket rested on a black-draped catafalque beneath the soaring ceiling and its painting, the “Apotheosis of Washington”.
“If there is any American whose life and life’s work deserves to be honoured by laying in honour in the US Capitol, it’s Billy Graham,” Mr Ryan said.
Though he met every president since Harry Truman and counselled most, Mr Graham grew wary of politics after Watergate. He was closest to Richard Nixon, but later said he felt used by him.
Former president Bill Clinton recalled seeing one of Mr Graham’s crusades when he was a child, a profound experience that became more amazing over his life. Mr Graham counselled him as Arkansas governor, and later as president in the White House itself.
“In that little room, he was the same person I saw when I was 11 on that football field,” Mr Clinton said, after viewing the casket at the pastor’s home.
Former president George W Bush and his wife, Laura, also visited Mr Graham’s home on Tuesday.
In Washington, Mr Ryan said there had been no doubt that Mr Graham would receive the honour of a public viewing in the Rotunda. He told reporters that almost immediately upon hearing of Graham’s death he, Mr Trump, Mr McConnell and Patrick McHenry, who represents the Graham family’s district, agreed it would happen.
Mr Graham is only the fourth private person to lie in honour since 1998. The others are two US Capitol Police officers who died in the line of duty in 1998 and civil rights hero Rosa Parks in 2005.
Billy Graham’s funeral shall be broadcast live on Premier Christian Radio from 5pm on Friday 2nd March.