Former President Bill Clinton will visit Charlotte on Tuesday to pay his final respects to Billy Graham, the evangelist and advisor to presidents who died Wednesday at age 99.
Hillary Clinton, the former First Lady and secretary of state, is not expected to accompany her husband.
Clinton will be the second former president in two days to arrive at the Billy Graham Library to honor Graham, who is lying in repose at his boyhood home. He’ll be there through Tuesday at 10 p.m.
On Monday, former President George W. Bush and wife Laura were escorted to the closed wooden casket by Graham’s son, Franklin, who is also an evangelist.
President Donald Trump will be in Charlotte on Friday for Graham’s funeral service. Trump’s immediate predecessor, former President Barack Obama, does not plan to attend the service, the Associated Press reported. The office of former president Jimmy Carter has not announced plans to visit Charlotte this week.
Graham’s body will lie in honor in the Capitol rotunda on Wednesday and Thursday. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will lead a memorial service once Graham’s casket arrives, the Washington Post has reported.
Clinton was among the long line of U.S. presidents, starting with President Harry Truman, that Graham advised. The evangelist took part in both of Clinton’s presidential inaugurations, giving the invocation in 1993 and a prayer in 1997.
In 1995, Graham and then-President Clinton both went to Oklahoma City to try to soothe the nation’s pain after 168 people were killed in the bombing of a federal building by home-grown terrorists.
During Clinton’s two terms, Graham visited the White House, sent encouraging letters to the Clintons, acted as an emissary during tense times with North Korea, and even counseled the First Lady in the wake of her husband’s sexual encounter in the Oval Office with intern Monica Lewinsky.
In 2007, then-Sen. Hillary Clinton told ABC News that she reached out to Graham after the 1998 scandal.
“He was someone who could understand both Bill and me, and there aren’t many who can,” she said of Graham. “Forgiveness is probably the hardest challenge that any of us face, but when you’re faced with having to do it yourself, especially when it’s playing out in front of the world, it is hard.”
Clinton, who stayed with her husband after the sex scandal, said Graham gave her confidence “that what I was doing, no matter what the rest of the world thought, was right. Right for me, right for my family and right for the country. And I will never forget that.”
When Bill Clinton has talked about Graham over the years, it’s usually been about how he became a fan of the evangelist when the future president was a kid in Arkansas. The young Clinton was so taken with Graham’s refusal to bow to pressure from southern segregationists in the 1950s, according to one report, that he started sending part of his allowance to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
In 2005, when Clinton spoke at Graham’s last crusade, in New York, he recalled attending another one in Little Rock in 1959. He told the crowd how much it affected him seeing blacks and whites worshiping – and answering the altar call – together.
“I was just a little boy and I never forgot it,” Clinton said. “And I’ve loved him ever since.”
Two years later, when Clinton came to Charlotte for the dedication of the Billy Graham Library, he returned to that time in the life of the South.
“The White Citizens Council in Little Rock tried to convince, even to pressure, Billy Graham and all of his people to preach to a segregated audience.... And he told them if they insisted on that, he would cancel the crusade and tell the whole world why,” Clinton said as the then-elderly Graham sat nearby. “Tens of thousands of black and white Christians there together in a football stadium. And when he issued the call at the end of this message, thousands came down holding hands, arm-in-arm crying. It was the beginning of the end of the old South in my home state.”
Tim Funk: 704-358-5703, @timfunk