- By WSOCTV.com
The Rev. Billy Graham will lie in honor Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol, one of the nation's highest distinctions. The honor comes after thousands visited his casket over two days at the Billy Graham Library in west Charlotte, North Carolina.
President Donald Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are expected Wednesday to remember "America's pastor," who died a week earlier at age 99.
Some 30 family members will accompany Graham's casket to Washington, where he befriended presidents of both parties and counseled others over seven decades.
WSOCTV was at the Billy Graham Library Wednesday morning as the hearse carrying Graham's body headed to the airport.
Graham is lying in honor beneath the iconic dome Wednesday and Thursday, before a funeral Friday near his home in Charlotte.
"If there is any American whose life and life's work deserves to be honored by laying in honor in the U.S. Capitol, it's Billy Graham," Ryan said.
The public will be invited into the Capitol Rotunda from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Though he met every president since Harry Truman and counseled most, Graham grew wary of politics after Watergate. He was closest to Richard Nixon but later said he felt used by him.
Nonetheless, Graham ministered to other presidents until his health began to fail about 10 years ago.
Former President Bill Clinton recalled seeing one of Graham's crusades as a child, a profound experience that became more amazing over his life. Graham counseled him as Arkansas governor, and later as president in the White House itself.
"In that little room, he was the same person I saw when I was 11 on that football field," Clinton said Tuesday after viewing the casket at Graham's home.
Former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, also visited Graham's home on Monday.
In Washington, Ryan said there had been no doubt that Graham would receive the honor of a public viewing in the Rotunda. He told reporters that almost immediately upon hearing of Graham's death he, Trump, McConnell and Rep. Patrick McHenry, who represents the Graham family's district, agreed it would happen.
Graham shares the honor with 11 presidents and other distinguished Americans, starting with Sen. Henry Clay of Kentucky in 1852 and, most recently, Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii in 2012, according to the House and the Architect of the Capitol.
Graham is only the fourth private person to lie in honor since 1998. The others are two U.S. Capitol Police officers who died in the line of duty in 1998 and civil rights hero Rosa Parks in 2005.
Graham died last Wednesday at the age of 99 at his home in Montreat.
His body was taken to the Graham Family Homeplace via a 130-mile motorcade from Asheville.
The funeral will be held on Friday in a tent in the main parking lot of Graham's library in tribute to the 1949 Los Angeles tent revivals that propelled him to international fame, family spokesman Mark DeMoss said. About 2,000 people are expected at the private, invitation-only funeral.
Former President Jimmy Carter announced that he would not be able to attend the funeral.