Evangelist Billy Graham, "America's Pastor," died Wednesday at his home in Montreat, North Carolina, at the age of 99, leaving behind a legacy of humility, faith, and service.
The spiritual counselor to a number of presidents, including Lyndon Johnson, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Graham is credited with bringing more than 3 million people to Christianity.
The preaching of the world-renowned evangelist was heard in 185 of the world's 195 countries, and prior to his death, the legendary evangelist had written 32 books, according to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Throughout his ministry, Graham often spoke of his hope of Heaven: "The most thrilling thing about Heaven is that Jesus Christ will be there," he said. "I will see Him face to face. Jesus Christ will meet us at the end of life's journey."
Here's a list of 10 facts you might not have known about the Southern Baptist minister.
Billy Graham was friends with Martin Luther King Jr. and championed desegregation
Billy Graham and Martin Luther King Jr. were close friends who boldly took a stand to end segregation in the United States.
Graham made history in the early 1950s by demanding that ropes separating blacks and whites be taken down at one of his crusades in the South. When the usher refused to do it, Graham took the ropes down himself. Graham's 1953 Chattanooga Crusade was the first to be fully integrated from the planning stages.
Preaching in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1973, Graham said, "Christ belongs to all people. He belongs to the whole world. ... I reject any creed based on hate ... Christianity is not a white man's religion, and don't let anybody ever tell you that it's white or black."
2. He met his wife, Ruth, at Wheaton College
While at Wheaton College in Illinois, Graham met his future wife, Ruth, the daughter of missionaries in China. They were married in 1943, until her death in 2007 at the age of 87.
When asked his secret, having been married 54 years to the same woman, he said: "Ruth and I are happily incompatible."
3. Billy Graham has been listed on Gallup's most admired list 61 times since 1955 — more than any other person
Although he's never been No. 1, Graham was consistently listed on Gallup's poll of the "10 Most Admired Men in the World." Graham's eldest son, Franklin, said back in 2015 following the release of that year's results, that his father would say the distinction is not about himself, but "all about the Lord Jesus Christ."
4. Many of Billy Graham's descendants are well-known evangelists
Billy Graham had five children — and many of them have followed in their father's footsteps. Graham's son, Franklin Graham, leads the humanitarian organization Samaritan's Purse and is head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. His daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, is the head of AnGel Ministries and a respected evangelist in her own right. Billy Graham's grandson, Will Graham, serves as vice president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and as executive director of the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, North Carolina.
5. Billy Graham pastored 13 presidents
Graham is known as the "pastor to the presidents" for good reason. From Harry Truman to Barack Obama, he had a relationship with over a dozen presidents, attending the inaugurations of six presidents and delivering the invocations for both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
In his 2010 book Decision Points, George W. Bush said there were several factors that persuaded him to stop drinking, including a meeting with Graham.
Following Graham's death, President Donald Trump tweeted: "The GREAT Billy Graham is dead. There was nobody like him! He will be missed by Christians and all religions. A very special man."
6. Before becoming an evangelist, Billy Graham wanted to be a professional baseball player
Growing up on a dairy farm in Charlotte, Graham preferred baseball to religion, and his hero was Babe Ruth. "I detested going to church," he said when recalling his youth.
But in 1934 that changed. At a revival, 15-year-old Graham committed his life to serving Jesus Christ and never looked back.
"I was opposed to evangelism," he said. "But finally, I was persuaded by a friend [to go to a meeting] ... and the spirit of God began to speak to me as I went back night after night. One night, when the invitation was given to accept Jesus, I just said, 'Lord, I'm going.' I knew I was headed in a new direction."
7. Billy Graham had a premonition about John F. Kennedy's assassination
In his autobiography, Just as I Am, Graham wrote that in mid-November he began to feel "such a burden" about President John Kennedy's trip to Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. He tried to warn Kennedy through a third party and tell him, "Don't go to Texas!"
Graham said he was playing golf when he was told that Kennedy had been shot.
8. He was the first pastor to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
In 1989, Graham was the first clergyman to be granted a star for his work as a minister. He accepted the honor with humility while shifting the attention to Jesus Christ.
"My primary desire today in having my name inscribed upon this Walk of Fame is that God would receive the glory," he said. "I hope someday somebody will come and say, 'Who is Billy Graham? What did he stand for?' Perhaps a child will ask his parents or grandparents, and they will tell him that he was not a celebrity, not a star, but a simple preacher of the Gospel. And that they might explain the Gospel to him, and that many might find Christ in that."
When asked if he minded that his name would be permanently embossed on a boulevard that for some is synonymous with sin, Graham said: "We're all sinners. Everybody you meet all over the world is a sinner. The word sin means you've broken with the laws of God. We've all done that. So I couldn't condemn Hollywood Boulevard any more than any other place."
9. Billy Graham was a friend and spiritual adviser to Queen Elizabeth II
Graham preached for both the Queen and the royal family on a number of occasions. From his book, Just As I Am, Graham spoke of "a mother's faith."
"[The] Queen Mother always impressed me with her quiet but firm faith," he wrote. "The last time I preached at Windsor, as I walked in I saw her sitting over to my right, with others in the royal family. She deliberately caught my eye and gestured slightly to let me know she was supporting me and praying for me."
10. Billy Graham's 'life verse' was Galatians 6:14
Last year, Franklin Graham revealed that his father had one Bible verse displayed in large letters all around his house, and he called it his "life verse."
He revealed that the verse was Galatians 6:14, which reads: "But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."
"Still today, my father Billy Graham has a Bible verse pinned up on the wall in his bedroom, printed in VERY large letters. In fact, it's in the dining room, his bathroom, and several other spots around the house! Back before his 95th birthday, he was working on a sermon based on this key scripture. It was his passion to memorize it, to saturate his heart and mind with it. He made it his life verse," Graham said.