Influential US evangelist, Billy Graham dies at 99

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The Rev. Billy Graham speaks on stage at his farewell American revival meeting in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in New York Sunday, June 26, 2005. (AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams) ORG XMIT: NYGB105

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, preaching to audiences worldwide in large arenas, beginning in London in 1954.

The Southern Baptist minister provided special counsel to U.S. presidents, from Harry Truman to Barack Obama.

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

Mr. Graham had dealt with a number of illnesses in his last years, including prostate cancer, hydrocephalus (a buildup of fluid in the brain) and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

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

Graham reached millions more through TV.

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

At first sceptical of the civil rights movement in the US, he went on to become a supporter in the 1950s.

Graham befriended the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as well, and together they preached to more than 2 million people in New York City. When questioned about his views on faith and race, Graham argued there was no scriptural basis for segregation.

Graham avoided the scandals which dogged some contemporary televangelists. His fiery delivery became more measured with advancing years and controversy surrounding the techniques of mass evangelism.

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