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At 90, Billy Graham’s role as mentor to US presidents winds down


As Barack Obama is poised to begin a new era in the history of the U.S. presidency, the role of the Rev Billy Graham as a private spiritual advisor to successive leaders of the world’s most powerful country is drawing to a close.

"My father feels like his time and day for that is over," Graham’s son, Franklin Graham said, describing his father’s health as too weak for him to serve as a counsellor to Obama the way he had for nine other presidents from both the Democratic and the Republican parties.

"But he would certainly like to meet [Obama] and pray with him," The Associated Press quoted Franklin Graham as saying.

Known worldwide for his missionary revivals focused on repentance and salvation, his quiet personal life and his strict financial accounting rules for his organization, Billy Graham turned 90 on 7 November. It was an event celebrated by the release of a new movie about his life and with thousands of tributes from around the world.

Though he never ministered to his own church, Graham has preached to more than 215 million people in 185 countries.

Graham has influenced a wide spectrum of U.S. culture for more than 60 years. He has appeared on the cover of Time and other U.S. national magazines multiple times, starting in 1954, and earned a spot in the Time 100 most influential people list.

Born in 1918, four days before the end of the First World War, on a farm in Charlotte, North Carolina, Graham grew up while the Great Depression. He said that at 16, he committed his life to serving Christ.

Graham’s youth is the subject of a new film released worldwide.

Billy: The Early Years tells the story of Graham’s rise to prominence, culminating in his 1949 crusade in Los Angeles that lasted eight weeks and made him a national figure. The film includes considerable focus on Graham’s courtship with his wife, Ruth Bell Graham, who died in 2007.

(c) Ecumenical News International