CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Former President Bill Clinton paid his final respects to Rev. Billy Graham on Tuesday during the lie in repose, arriving at the Billy Graham Library and visiting with the Graham family.
The former president arrived just after 11 a.m. After spending roughly 45 minutes inside the Graham childhood home with Rev. Franklin Graham, and walking the grounds of the library, Clinton addressed the media, reflecting on “America’s Pastor.”
"I'm glad to be back in this magnificent spot for the first time since I was here for the dedication. And I'm just one of millions, maybe hundreds of millions of people, who in their own way will find some way to say thank you and good-bye to Billy Graham," Clinton said.
Rev. Graham counseled Clinton and was even criticized by some conservative evangelicals for praying at Clinton’s inauguration because the former president is a supporter of abortion rights.
Graham was also criticized for publicly forgiving Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal and praising Hillary Clinton for forgiving her husband.
The former president went on to tell a story about how excited he was when, at 11 years old, his Sunday School teacher took him to War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, Arkansas to see Graham’s crusade.
Clinton said many people were pressuring Graham to preach to whites only, but the reverend refused.
"He said that all people deserved to hear God's word and that if he couldn't preach to everyone, he wouldn't preach at all," Clinton said.
“I have read many things that contemporary people have said, some laudatory, some not so laudatory,” Clinton said. “I read a story today saying if you’re a preacher you have to be careful about getting too close to those politicians. I agree with that -- but don’t forget, those of us that are Christians believe in a god of second chances, and politicians need those more than anybody else. So you gotta cut him a little slack for trying to give a willing ear and an open heart without regard to his political preferences.”
Clinton ended his remarks by saying, “I think he was a profoundly good man who conveyed a simple belief that we can claim kinship with God by asking, and that while we all believe that it's faith plus nothing, he wasn't faith plus nothing. He lived. he showed his faith by his works and by his life.”
“For me, every time I think about him, I'll be 11 again, having no idea how my life would turn out, grateful that in that moment, when it would be easier not to do it, he actually lived his faith,” Clinton said. “Thank you, I’m glad to be here.”
Former President George W. Bush and his wife, former first lady Laura Bush, paid their respects on Monday.
“If there is such a thing as a humble shepherd of the Lord, Billy Graham is that person,” Bush said.
It was announced that former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara Bush, would not be able to travel to Charlotte for the funeral due to health issues.
Former President Jimmy Carter will also not be attending the funeral.
President Donald Trump is scheduled to attend the funeral on Friday but former President Barack Obama will not be attending.
Congress will host a special session Tuesday night to share their tributes and memories of Rev. Graham. His body will be flown to Washington Wednesday to lie in honor at the Capitol rotunda.
A group from North Carolina will have access to a special viewing line and anyone who lives in Congressman Robert Pittenger's district can contact his office to reserve a space.
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