Ex-Presidents at Graham Library Opening
Former Presidents Carter, Clinton, Bush Join Hundreds for Dedication of Billy Graham Library
Visitors to the new, presidential-style museum honoring evangelist Billy Graham enter and exit the building through crosses as tall as 40 feet high, a design meant to emphasize that the $27-million complex is an extension of the minister's work.
"My hope is there will be thousands of people who come here every year and accept Jesus Christ as their savior," said the Rev. Franklin Graham, son and successor to his father, the world's most widely heard preacher.
On Thursday, former Presidents Carter, Clinton and George H.W. Bush met with the Graham family before the formal dedication of the Billy Graham Library, expected to draw 1,500 well-wishers.
Billy Graham, 88, suffers from fluid on the brain, prostate cancer and Parkinson's disease, and is largely confined to his home in Montreat.
Still, he was scheduled to speak at the ceremony. It will take place in view of his childhood home, which was moved to the library site and restored. His wife Ruth, 86, has degenerative osteoarthritis of the back and neck and is bedridden at their home.
Billy Graham has toured the museum, "tearing up" when he came to the room dedicated to Ruth, Franklin Graham said. His only complaint? "Too much Billy Graham," according to his son.
The 40,000-square-foot complex was built on the grounds of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and among its designers was the ITEC Entertainment Co., of Orlando, Fla., which has done work for Disney and other theme parks. The dairy farm where the preacher grew up is just a few miles from the site and the library reflects his roots.
The cavernous lobby is meant to resemble a barn with scattered bales of hay and milk cans. The sounds of a cackling chicken and neighing horse are piped in. The first Bible verse Graham's mother taught him, John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son," is engraved onto a rafter.
To the right is a cow shed, where a display that has drawn the most curiosity stands. An animatronic black-and-white cow named Bessie says in a southern drawl that Graham has been "preaching the pure milk of God's word for 60 years." Bessie tells kids to "get moo-ving" to learn more about the preacher.