Trump, Palin, McCrory help Billy Graham celebrate 95th birthday
Posted November 7, 2013 4:02 a.m. EST
Updated November 7, 2013 11:11 p.m. EST
ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Politicians, business leaders, celebrities and hundreds of faithful joined the Rev. Billy Graham Thursday as he reached a significant milestone. On Nov. 7, 1918, the man who would become known as "America's pastor," was born.
As the North Carolina-born evangelist turned 95, a big party was held at the Grove Park Inn to celebrate the occasion. Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Kathy Lee Gifford and Gov. Pat McCrory were some of the guests in attendance.
"He’s like the first son of North Carolina," McCrory said. "He’s made our state proud. He was born in Charlotte. He continued to make North Carolina his home, and he’s never embarrassed us, you know, because he is so humble."
Although Graham retired from preaching publicly in 2005, his career in the pulpit saw him become among the most high-profile religious leaders of the 20th century, a man who counseled presidents and whose message, in person and via broadcast media, is estimated to have reached billions of people worldwide.
It was President George H.W. Bush who tagged Graham "America's pastor." Graham served as a spiritual adviser to the man in the White House beginning with Democrat Harry Truman and lasting through Republican George W. Bush.
Despite his access, Graham sought to stay above the fray of politics, saying, "Evangelists cannot be closely identified with any particular party or person. We have to stand in the middle in order to preach to all people, right and left."
In recent years, Graham has spent his time reading, writing and entertaining the occasional visitor – among them President Barack Obama and then-vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin – at his home in Montreat.
Graham's son Franklin has said that as many as 800 people were invited to the party in Asheville. Guests were treated to the premiere of Graham's new 30-minute program, "The Cross."
Over the next week, "The Cross" will air on 480 stations nationwide. Check your channel guide for details.