Influential US evangelist Billy Graham: dies at 99

US evangelist Billy Graham - one of the most influential preachers of the 20th Century - has died aged 99.

Graham became one of the best-known promoters of Christianity, beginning his worldwide mission in large arenas in London in 1954.

He died at his home in Montreat, North Carolina, a spokesman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association said.

In a 60-year career, he is estimated to have personally preached to 210 million people.

Graham reached millions more through TV - the first to use the medium to convey the Christian message on that scale.

  • Billy Graham: The man dubbed God's Ambassador

He became a committed Christian at the age of 16 after hearing a travelling evangelist and was ordained a minister in 1939.

Graham came to wider attention in the United States when he held a two-month ministry in a giant tent in Los Angeles in 1949.

At first ambivalent about the civil rights movement in the US, he went on to become a supporter in the 1950s with racially integrated congregations.

Graham avoided the scandals which dogged some contemporary televangelists through the decades.

But his fiery delivery became more measured with advancing years and controversy surrounding the techniques of mass evangelism.

Graham, a friend of US presidents from Truman to Nixon and Obama, preached his final revival meeting in New York in 2005 at the age of 86.

Reacting in a tweet, President Donald Trump called him a special man.

He wrote: "The GREAT Billy Graham is dead. There was nobody like him! He will be missed by Christians and all religions. A very special man."

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, tweeted that he was an example to generations of modern Christians.

 
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