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Southwest Virginia remembers the Rev. Billy Graham

Graham passed away Wednesday at age 99

ROANOKE, Va.

The world is reacting to the loss of "America's Pastor" legendary evangelist Billy Graham passed away at his home in Montreat, North Carolina, on Wednesday at age 99.

Graham was one of the most influential preachers of the 20th century.

He is reported to have converted more than 3 million people to Christianity, and the Rev. Dr. Bryan Smith of First Baptist Church in Roanoke is one of them.

"Our family would come together around the television set to listen to his messages and even as a small boy I remember hearing Dr. Graham preach,” Smith said. 

Smith, who calls Graham his hero, like millions of others, knew the evangelist as a household name and moral guide.

"My mom used that little booklet from Dr. Graham to help show me what it meant to be a Christian and how I could become one," Smith said.

 

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The world is reacting to the loss of ‘America's Pastor.’ Legendary evangelist Billy Graham passed away at his home in Montreat, North Carolina Wednesday at age 99.

Reverend Billy Graham was one of the most influential preachers of the 20th century.

Reported to have converted more than three million people to Christianity, Reverend Dr. Bryan Smith of First Baptist Church in Roanoke is one of them.

Graham evangelized to nearly 215 million people over six decades and prayed with U.S. presidents from Harry Truman to Barack Obama.

Many of those presidents reacted Wednesday on social media to his passing, as did politicians here locally.

"Our world mourns the loss of a great spiritual leader and Christian. Billy Graham brought the word to millions,” said Congressman Morgan Griffith in a statement.

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"It was always about others,” said the Rev. Serenus Churn Jr., pastor at High Street Baptist Church.

Churn said Graham used faith to ease tensions during the civil rights movement. Churn said Graham had a pivotal message during a crucial time in American history.

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"Dr. Martin Luther King Junior stated that if it wasn't for his friend Dr. Billy Graham that some of the things that he was able to do in the 1960s couldn't be accomplished. Dr. Billy Graham said it like this: There is not a white Jesus, not a different-colored Jesus. There is a Jesus for all the world,” Churn said.

A message heard for generations that will continue even after Graham's passing.


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