UPDATE: Rev. Billy Graham passes - WSMV News 4

UPDATE: Rev. Billy Graham passes

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UPDATE: The Rev. Billy Graham, who transformed American religious life through his preaching and activism, becoming a counselor to presidents and the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history, has died.

Spokesman Mark DeMoss says Graham, who long suffered from cancer, pneumonia and other ailments, died at his home in North Carolina on Wednesday morning. He was 99.

READ MORE | Rev. Billy Graham's visit to the Scenic City in 1991

Graham reached more than 200 million through his appearances and millions more through his pioneering use of television and radio. Unlike many traditional evangelists, he abandoned narrow fundamentalism to engage broader society.

 PREVIOUS STORY: NBC affiliate WCNC reports that Charlotte-born evangelist Billy Graham is weak at 96 years of age, but he is feeling well enough to have lunch with his son and watch football.

In an interview Thursday with NBC Charlotte reporter Amy Cowman, Franklin Graham said he ate lunch with his dad on Sunday.

"He's very weak," Franklin Graham said. "He's 96 years of age so he doesn't have a lot of stamina and he doesn't carry on long conversations, but his mind is still clear and we're thankful for that."

"One of the nurses beside him, she said 'Dr. Graham did you ever preach there'? He said, 'oh yes' and we talked a little bit about that," Franklin Graham said.

For a record 58th time, Rev. Billy Graham made the Gallup Poll's annual list of the men Americans most admire in 2014. He tied at fourth place with former President George W. Bush.

"I'm just grateful that God has given him this much health and that he's still with us at 96 years of age," Franklin Graham said.

Rev. Billy Graham has five children and 19 grandchildren. His wife Ruth Graham died in 2007. Rev. Graham is often referred to as "America's pastor."

PREVIOUS STORY: Rev. Billy Graham celebrated his 96th birthday November 7, 2014.

Ironically, several days later, social media said the iconic American evangelist had died, via posts on a Facebook page that fooled nearly one million fans.

The Christian Post reported that a representative from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association said "He is still very much alive."

PREVIOUS STORY: A message delivered by Rev. Billy Graham's grandson, Will Graham, in late February to the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville was to set the record straight on the iconic pastor's health.

"This is what my grandfather has said concerning his own death, he said, 'One day you will hear that Billy Graham has died.' He said, 'Don't believe it. On that day I will be more alive than I ever will be.' And that's the truth and that's why he preaches, because this life is only the setup for the life to come," reported the Christian Post.

The publication described Will Graham as "an evangelist traveling the world to spread the Gospel, added that his grandfather is in a condition that is natural for someone like him at the age of 95."

"He's just old, that's the simplest way I can describe it," the young Graham continued.

PREVIOUS STORY: A web note posted by Rev. Franklin Graham on Tuesday is asking for prayers for his 95-year-old father, Rev. Billy Graham.

The unedited letter is posted below.

"My father turned 95 this past November 7, and I am pleased to say that my family was able to be with him as he celebrated another milestone in his long and productive life.

Joined by many colleagues and friends from around the nation and the world at this celebration, he spoke briefly of these friendships and did not fail to point people to the Lord Jesus Christ. This will forever be his legacy which is, as the Bible says, a testimony to the faithfulness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Since that night a few short weeks ago, he has had another bout with a respiratory infection and was hospitalized briefly before returning home to recuperate. He is extremely weakbut his vitals are good. 

Our family would appreciate your prayers for him that the Lord would strengthen him. He has been so encouraged by the release of his most recent book "The Reason for My Hope—Salvation" that he immediately began work on another book about a subject that he feels that God has laid on his heart.

Only the Lord knows what is in store as we move forward in service to Him.

To all who have stood with us—some for sixty years—supporting us financially and undergirding through prayer, thank you for your faithful support. 

We are encouraged with how God has blessed the proclamation of the Gospel through My Hope. 

This evangelistic outreach will continue for the next five years as the Lord is using it so effectively in people's hearts. We are thankful that He is touching hearts as tens of thousands have responded to the invitation to confess their sins and receive Christ as Savior.

We value your prayers—in fact, we depend on them. We find words of comfort and praise in the psalms, "Oh, bless our God…and make the voice of His praise to be heard, who keeps our soul among the living, and does not allow our feet to be moved. Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will declare what He has done for my soul. Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer" (Psalm 66:8-9, 16, 20 NKJV)."

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