×

Evangelist Billy Graham, Queen Elizabeth's Friend and "America's Pastor," Has Died at Age 99

Getty Images

The Reverend Billy Graham — who advised US presidents for decades, was a close friend to Queen Elizabeth, and whose sermons were broadcast to millions — died on Wednesday, Feb. 21. He was 99 years old. Billy, who battled serious health conditions including Parkinson's disease, died from "natural causes," Todd Shearer of DeMoss Associates told Fox News.

Born on Nov. 7, 1918, near Charlotte, NC, Billy was the oldest of four Graham children. In 1939, he became an ordained Southern Baptist clergyman. In 1943, he graduated from Wheaton College where he met the woman to whom he was married for 43 years. Ruth McCue Bell, the daughter of a medical missionary, and Billy married in August of that year and went on to have five children, 19 grandchildren, and numerous great-grandchildren. Ruth died in June 2007.

For seven decades, Billy delivered his crusades to packed venues. After seven decades of delivering the gospel, Billy stepped away in 2005 after preaching what he called his "Final Crusade," a three-day event in NYC. At the time, he said, "Deep inside we need something else. 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."

In addition to his many crusades, Billy authored several books, conducted weekly radio programs, published his own magazine, and produced shows for Christian TV networks. He has also repeatedly made Gallup's list of most admired men and women, appearing on the list a record 60 times since 1955.

Just a few months prior to his death, Billy was portrayed by actor Paul Sparks on Netflix's hit series The Crown. In the sixth episode of the second season — which was titled "Vergangenheit" — Queen Elizabeth was transfixed while watching one of Billy's sermons on television alongside the Queen Mother. She later invited Billy for a sermon at Windsor Chapel and a lunch in her royal company. Though some of The Crown's storylines aren't completely accurate, Elizabeth and Billy were indeed quite close in real life — he’d visit her when he was in the UK, and she’d visit him when she was in the US.

This post originally appeared on our sister site, Woman's World.

Join our Facebook group for the latest updates on Kate Middleton, Prince William, and all things royal!

More from Woman's World

Kathie Lee Gifford Reveals Her Mom Joan Epstein Died in Her Sleep at Age 87

8 Rules to Follow When You're Visiting a Loved One in the Hospital

Video of Older Sister Trying to Pray Perfectly Captures What It's Like to Have a Pesky Little Sister