Evangelist Billy Graham dies at 99

Locals celebrated Rev. Billy Graham on his 98th birthday. (Photo Credit: Billy Graham Evangelistic Association)

Rev. Billy Graham, one of the world's most famous Christian evangelists, has died. He was 99.

Graham died at his North Carolina home this morning from natural causes, a family spokesperson told ABC News. It's been said Graham was the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history. The religious leader was known as the "Pastor to the Presidents," counseling many U.S. Presidents from Harry Truman to Barack Obama.

Billy Graham's spiritual journey began more than 60 years ago in 1949. It was during his first crusade in Los Angeles, CA when the reverend's fiery delivery launched his career as a national preacher capable of drawing large crowds. He developed his powerful speaking style after listening to tent revival preachers in the southeast, our sister station WLOS reports. Graham became the first preacher to reach millions with a new electronic pulpit, with most of his crusades filmed and videotaped for national broadcasts.

Graham was admired for his humility, even after achieving fame and a large following. He believed that Christians show their faith best when they serve. At the close of many services, Graham said, "You've come tonight to Christ, not to Billy Graham. I have no supernatural power to do anything. I'm just a man like you are. I'm only a messenger and my message is that God loves you."

After the news broke, President Trump and Vice President Pence took to Twitter to express their condolences. "There was nobody like him," the President Trump tweeted. "He will be missed by Christians and all religions."

Senator Thom Tillis, of North Carolina released a statement on Graham's passing. It reads as follows:

“Reverend Billy Graham, a proud North Carolinian, was truly America’s Pastor and spiritual compass. He dedicated his life to preaching the Gospel and inspired millions of people in America and across the globe. He preached in favor of inclusiveness and viewed diversity in our society as a strength. His counsel was sought by many Presidents – Republicans and Democrats alike – in no small part because of his unshakable moral clarity and convictions. Reverend Graham’s life’s work and devotion to faith bettered our country and the world. I join my fellow citizens in celebrating a great and historic man, and North Carolina’s favorite son."

Congressman Walter Jones, of North Carolina, also had a few words to say about Graham's death. It reads as follows:

“I truly believe that a loss on Earth is an even bigger gain in Heaven, and nothing could be truer of Reverend Billy Graham. I have such great respect for this man of faith. For years, I watched Billy Graham’s sermons and saw him change the lives of millions around the world. He leaves us a legacy of service, grace, and most importantly, love. One of North Carolina’s favorite sons will be dearly missed.”

Health problems began limiting Graham's international ministry in the early 1990's when he was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. In 1995, he collapsed during a speaking engagement in Toronto. Graham's final crusade was held in New York in 2005, when he told a crowd of nearly 70,000 that he does not fear death and that he's looking forward to heaven.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates. WLOS contributed to this report.

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