Billy Graham dead: Legendary evangelist preacher and spiritual adviser to presidents dies aged 99

Samuel Osborne

Billy Graham, a Christian evangelist and adviser to several US presidents, has died.

Graham died at his home in Montreat, North Carolina, aged 99, a spokesperson for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association said.

He had long suffered from cancer, pneumonia and other ailments.

Graham reached more than 200 million people through his appearances and millions more through his pioneering use of television and radio (Getty)

Graham transformed religious life in America through his preaching and activism and became the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history.

He reached more than 200 million people through his appearances and millions more through his pioneering use of television and radio.

His message and service to US presidents from Dwight Eisenhower to George W Bush earned him the nickname “America’s Pastor”.

Graham’s ties to the White House were mutually beneficial as they enhanced his reputation as a preacher, while boosting the presidents’ standing with religiously inclined voters.

Graham, who became a counsellor to several US presidents, with John F Kennedy at the White House (AP)

In the early half of his career, Graham often spoke his mind on social and political issues of the day, regularly expressing strong anti-communist sentiments.

He dismissed Vietnam War protesters as attention-seekers and, while he eventually refused to hold segregated revival meetings, did not take an active role in the 1960s civil rights movement.

Graham waded into the gay marriage debate in 2012 when he came out in support of a state amendment to ban same-sex marriages in North Carolina (AFP/Getty)

As he grew older, Graham said he felt he had become too involved in some issues and shifted to a middle-of-the-road position in order to reach more people.

However, he did dive into the gay marriage debate in 2012 when he came out in support of a state amendment to ban same-sex marriages in North Carolina.

He also met with Mitt Romney in the same year and told him he supported the Republican’s run for the presidency.

In 2002, Graham apologised after the release of secretly recorded tapes from 1972 in which he and Richard Nixon, who was President at the time, agreed liberal Jews dominated the US news media.

Graham was heard referring to Jews as pornographers and saying the Jewish “stranglehold has got to be broken or the country’s going down the drain”.

He was listed on Gallup’s annual US poll of most admired people 61 times, including in 2017, more than any other world figure – though he never made first place.