Last Updated Feb 24, 2018 11:50 AM EST

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Rev. Billy Graham‘s body will be brought to his hometown of Charlotte on Saturday as part of a procession. The procession departed from his training center near Asheville shortly after 11 a.m. Saturday. It reached Interstate 40 before it exited the highway and made its way through the town of Black Mountain. 

People lined an overpass spanning the interstate to view the motorcade while cars stopped in the westbound lanes as the procession headed in the opposite direction. More people lined the streets in Black Mountain, many of them using their cell phones to capture the moment.

Authorities in North Carolina’s largest city, where Graham grew up, are also making preparations with designated viewing areas for well-wishers when the procession ends there.

The procession is part of more than a week of mourning for “America’s Pastor,” culminating with his burial next week at his library in Charlotte.  A viewing will be held at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte on Monday and Tuesday. 

Graham will also lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda next week, on Feb. 28 and March 1, the first time a private citizen has been accorded such recognition since civil rights hero Rosa Parks in 2005. 

He will be laid to rest March 2 at the foot of a cross-shaped walkway at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, buried in a simple prison-made plywood coffin next to his wife, Ruth, who died in 2007. His coffin was built by inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana, who typically construct caskets for fellow prisoners who cannot afford one. 

The funeral will be held in a tent in the main parking lot of Graham’s library in tribute to the 1949 Los Angeles tent revivals that propelled him to international fame, family spokesman Mark DeMoss said. About 2,000 people are expected at the private, invitation-only funeral.

Billy Graham Takes His Crusade To New York City

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Rev. Billy Graham preaches at the Greater New York Billy Graham Crusade June 26, 2005 held in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in the Queens borough of New York. 

Mario Tama/Getty Images

Graham, who died Wednesday at his home in North Carolina’s mountains at age 99, reached hundreds of millions of listeners around the world with his rallies and his pioneering use of television.     

In the summer of 2005, Graham preached at what he called his “Final Crusade.”

“Deep inside we need something else,” he said. “And that something else can be brought about by Jesus.”

“When I touch the podium, I can feel a new strength and a new power come and it’s a thrilling thing for me to preach the gospel at this age,” Graham said.

The three-day event in New York City was the culmination of a lifetime of evangelism — seven decades of spreading the gospel to more than 200 million people in 185 countries around the world.

Hearse carrying body of evangelist Graham arrives at The Cove in Asheville, North Carolina

The hearse carrying the body of evangelist Billy Graham arrives at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, where some Graham family members gathered in Asheville, North Carolina, February 22, 2018.


Graham once said: “Jesus Christ, the son of God, has an answer to every problem that you face!”

Raised in the fundamentalist faith of his native North Carolina, Graham dedicated his life to Christ when he was 16, and was ordained a Baptist minister in 1939. He created his own brand of populist evangelism. 

He also passed on a business model for running a corporate church — one that would catapult him to success and leave a blueprint for future mega-pastors, even as it proved nearly impossible to duplicate. He leaves behind two nonprofits, and he wrote nearly three dozen books and a weekly newspaper column, hosted a radio show and had a hand in the production of hundreds of movies. He was also involved in founding two magazines.

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