Late pastor Billy Graham to lie in honor in US Capitol

Former US presidents, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, pose with evangelist Billy Graham (centre) and his son, Franklin Graham in 2007.
Former US presidents, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, pose with evangelist Billy Graham (centre) and his son, Franklin Graham in 2007.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The body of Reverend Billy Graham, a spiritual adviser to several presidents, will lie in the US Capitol Rotunda next week so Americans can pay their respects to the globally influential preacher, lawmakers said on Thursday (Feb 22).

The rare honour of placing an American's remains in the Capitol is usually reserved for US presidents, military officials and politicians.

Graham, who died Wednesday at age 99, would be only the fourth private citizen so honoured, and the first person since US senator Daniel Inouye in 2012.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said Graham's remains will lay in the Capitol from Feb 28 to March 1. A ceremony featuring congressional leaders was being prepared, Ryan said.

"With your approval, we will move forward with these arrangements, so that Americans have this opportunity to pay their respects to Rev Graham before he is laid to rest," Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a letter to Graham's son Franklin.

Graham helped pioneer the role of television evangelist.

The one-time backwoods minister - who eventually became the world's foremost Christian evangelist - spread a message of spiritual redemption at tent and stadium revival meetings, in a career that spanned decades.

The last US president to lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda was Gerald Ford in 2007, less than three years after Ronald Reagan received the same honour.