That command broke a long, somber silence inside the storied U.S. Capitol Rotunda preceding a rare bicameral prayer service honoring the life of Billy Graham. As House and Senate members, diplomatic corps and White House dignitaries looked on reverently, a precisely cadenced military detail emerged, smartly maneuvering across the stone floor, casket held firmly. Once halted, they placed the casket gently to rest on a draped wooden platform, a replica of the one hastily built to support Abraham Lincoln’s casket after his assassination in 1865.
By congressional edict, Billy Graham became only the fourth private citizen to lie in honor inside the Rotunda, joining civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks and two Capitol police officers who gave their lives defending their post.
“Here lies America’s pastor,” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said in eulogy. “A man made great, not by who he was but by Who he served with all of his heart and all of his soul and all his mind.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell remarked: “Billy knew better than anyone that fame and an impressive Rolodex weren’t the real standards of success. His aim was simpler: sharing the Good News with as many souls as he possibly could.”
President Trump, noting the historic art encircling the hall, told those gathered: “Around us stand the statues of heroes … from Washington to Lincoln to Eisenhower to King. And today in the center of this great chamber lies legendary Billy Graham, an ambassador for Christ who reminded the world of the power of prayer and the gift of God’s grace.”
The Senate chaplain, retired Navy Rear Adm. Barry Black, closed the private service in prayer—“in the Name of Billy Graham’s Savior and closest Friend, Jesus Christ. Amen!”
Following the prayer service, several thousand were already lined up outside to make their way through the Rotunda to pay respects during a time of public viewing.
Among them, Sybil Head of Fulshear, Texas, said Mr. Graham’s reliance on the Bible inspired her after she was born again.
“That was 30 years ago. And I have had a passion for His Word ever since … that’s why I’m here.”
Photo: David Morrison/©2018 BGEA