Some will wave from the highway. Others will silently wait in line outside his boyhood home. Still others will pause at his simple casket in the center of one of America’s grandest rooms.
The Rev. Billy Graham, who died Wednesday at 99 years old, touched all of their lives. And in the coming days, they’ll get to say thank you – and goodbye.
These opportunities for the public to pay their last respects to the Charlotte-born evangelist will start at 11:25 a.m. Saturday. That’s when a 10-car motorcade – including the hearse carrying his body – will depart Asheville for the Billy Graham Library in his hometown.
Multiple designated public viewing areas will dot the 130-mile route. Authorities also know that many Graham admirers will find their own places along the way, which will include Tryon Street and South Boulevard in Charlotte.
The motorcade is scheduled to arrive at the library, the site of next week’s funeral and burial services, at 3 p.m. Saturday.
Then, on Monday and Tuesday, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., shuttle buses will transport people to the Charlotte library grounds. There, they’ll stand in line outside the house, relocated and restored, that was once home to Graham. Once inside, they’ll be able to pass by his closed casket – made of pine plywood, lined with a mattress pad and topped with a wooden cross.
And on Wednesday and Thursday, thousands are expected to file into the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, where Graham’s body will lie in honor at the center of this domed room adorned with statues and paintings that tell America’s story.
Some people didn’t want to wait until the upcoming events to salute Graham and his 60-plus years as a minister of the Gospel.
They have already left flowers and signs at the entrance of the library.
“Thank you for making this world a better place,” read one sign framed by roses.
Someone else left a baseball – Graham’s career goal as a kid was to play in the major leagues – with this Bible passage written below the stitches: “WELL DONE, GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT.”
Here are more details on when and where people can honor Graham:
▪ On Saturday, the motorcade will pass through Black Mountain at about 11:35 a.m. A designated public viewing area will be between State Street at Cragmont Road to State Street at the intersection with Interstate 40 East.
▪ From Black Mountain, the Graham motorcade will travel along Hwy. 70 east, return to Interstate 40, then use Hwy. 321 to connect to Interstate 85, enroute to Charlotte.
▪ The motorcade is expected to arrive in Charlotte around 2:20 p.m.
▪ In Charlotte, the motorcade will travel along Interstate 277, entering uptown via North Tryon Street. Viewing areas in Charlotte will include Tryon Street to the intersection of Stonewall Street, and along Stonewall Street to South Boulevard. A spokesperson for Graham’s family said a public viewing area will extend along South Boulevard from uptown to Remount Road.
▪ From there, the motorcade is expected to travel on South Tryon Street before turning onto Billy Graham Parkway. The library itself is closed to the public until March 5.
▪ - On Monday and Tuesday, those wanting to view Graham's casket in his family homestead at the Billy Graham Library will be shuttled from two off-site locations: the parking lots at the Operation Christmas Child warehouse, 7100 Forest Point Blvd. in south Charlotte, and from the Charlotte Valet Business Lot 2 at 5601 Wilkinson Blvd. at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
Maps and more information about the route and recommended viewing areas are available on the official Billy Graham Memorial website.
Law enforcement officials on Thursday advised motorists and pedestrians to use caution while viewing the motorcade. They expect heavy traffic along the route.
Police officers say drivers should not stop or park on interstate overpasses because the roadway is too narrow. Instead, public safety officials advised motorists to park away from the roadway by pulling over to the side of the road.
At the library, there will be a brief ceremony in front of the library at about 3 p.m. Then, the Graham family will gather for a private session in the library.