Florence pastor recalls meeting Billy Graham

February 22, 2018 GMT

FLORENCE, S.C. – The famous evangelist who became known as “America’s pastor” died Wednesday. Billy Graham was 99.

The icon’s death stirred many memories across the world, nation, state and the Pee Dee.

One Florence pastor didn’t wait long to share his story.

Mike Henderson, the senior pastor at Highland Park United Methodist Church in Florence, posted his “Billy Graham Story” on his blog Wednesday morning.

On Thanksgiving in 1971, Henderson was dating a young woman who attended Montreat-Anderson College in Montreat, North Carolina. She had a job caring for a couple of horses at Billy Graham’s home near there. She was invited to Thanksgiving supper with the Grahams, and she invited Henderson to go along.

“Which I did. Nervously,” Henderson wrote. “After all, this was Billy Graham I would be sitting with at the table.

“We stood at the front door, waiting for someone to answer. I tried to make jokes to ease my nervousness. ‘Do I need to take off my shoes, this being holy ground?’ ‘Is that a burning bush I see over at the edge of the yard?’ Not very funny, but I was trying.

“The door opened and there he was. He welcomed us into his home, stuck out his hand, and said, ‘Hello. I’m Billy Graham.’ I took his hand and told him my name. We went into the dining room, had supper and good conversation. Every time the conversation would turn towards him, Billy would direct it in another way. He wasn’t being overly private or hiding anything; he just didn’t think he was that interesting.

“Late in the conversation, I ventured these thoughts to him. ‘Mr. Graham, you may be the best-known person on the planet right now. Your voice is known all over the world. Even if people did not know what you looked like, they would recognize your voice because it is heard on radio stations everywhere. You are probably the only person who would not need to introduce himself. Yet, you told me your name at the door. You didn’t need to. Why?’ (I was thinking that he probably thought I was too stupid to remember where I was having supper.) He said, ‘I have always thought it was presumptuous to think that anyone would know who I was.’

“That has stuck with me for the last 47 years.

“Thanks, Dr. Graham, for your life and witness. I will wager everything that this morning when you woke up in heaven, someone called you by name.”

Graham was not a stranger to presidents and other leaders in government. Some of those leaders have fond memories of Graham.

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), no relation to the evangelist, shared his thoughts.

“One of the greatest messengers of Christ has gone to his heavenly reward,” Lindsey Graham said. “Dr. Graham spread the good news to millions across the world and led a life beyond reproach.

“He was a counselor to presidents, a pastor to the masses, and most of all – a loving, caring husband, father, and grandfather. May Dr. Graham rest in peace.”

In Columbia, the South Carolina Senate opened Wednesday with a prayer dedicated to Graham, and senators agreed to adjourn in his memory as they also stood for a moment of silence in his honor.

Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman of Florence said he saw Graham during a crusade, and it made an impact on him.

“He was one of the most dynamic people I have ever seen,” Leatherman told The Greenville News.

The Greenville News contributed to this report.