Thousands to Pay Final Respects to D. James Kennedy

Thousands are expected to pay their final respects on Thursday to the late Dr. D. James Kennedy, longtime senior pastor and widely respected conservative evangelical.

The funeral service will have Dr. James Dobson, founder and chairman of Focus on the Family, as the keynote speaker and is scheduled to broadcast live via webcast and telecast at 1 p.m. EDT.

Eulogies will be given by National Religious Broadcasters president and CEO Dr. Frank Wright and Amway Corporation co-founder Richard DeVos; and tributes by President George W. Bush and evangelist Billy Graham will be read by a White House aide and one of Graham's grandsons, respectively.

Kennedy died at the age of 76 the morning of Sept. 5 in his home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He had not made a public appearance since suffering from cardiac arrest in December, followed by multiple complications.

The megachurch pastor led Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale for nearly 50 years and grew his influence around the globe, broadcasting sermons and messages instilling biblical values in culture and defending the Christian faith through Coral Ridge Ministries – a multi-media organization that reaches 3 million people.

Dobson has described Kennedy as one of the Church's "truly significant figures" and one of American families' "most passionate, effective defenders."

Kennedy's retirement from the Coral Ridge pulpit was announced just a week before he died in his sleep.

The respected conservative has been laying in repose for public viewing throughout Wednesday at the grand narthex of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church.

Following the public memorial service on Thursday, family members will gather for a private interment on Friday.

On the Web: The live webcast at www.djameskennedy.org.