Billy Graham, evangelical preacher dubbed 'America's Pastor', dies aged 99

Billy Graham, evangelical preacher dubbed 'America's Pastor', dies aged 99

Billy Graham, the magnetic, movie-star-handsome preacher who became a singular force in postwar American religious life and was a confidant of presidents, has died at the age of 99.

"America's Pastor" had suffered from cancer, pneumonia and other ailments and died at his home in Montreat, North Carolina.

More than anyone else, Reverend Graham built evangelicalism into a force that rivalled liberal Protestantism and Roman Catholicism in the US.

His leadership summits and crusades in more than 185 countries and territories forged powerful global links among conservative Christians and threw a lifeline to believers in the communist bloc.

In Australia, his 1959 appearance at the MCG attracted more than 130,000 people, the largest crowd ever at the venue.

Tributes to Rev Graham poured in from major leaders, with President Donald Trump tweeting: "The GREAT Billy Graham is dead. There was nobody like him! He will be missed by Christians and all religions. A very special man."

Former president Barack Obama said Graham "gave hope and guidance to generations of Americans."

A tall, striking man with thick, swept-back hair, stark blue eyes and a firm jaw, Rev Graham was a commanding presence in the pulpit, with a powerful baritone voice.

"The Bible says," was his catchphrase. His unquestioning belief in scripture turned the Gospel into a "rapier" in his hands, he said.

Rev Graham reached multitudes around the globe through public appearances and his pioneering use of prime-time telecasts, network radio, daily newspaper columns, evangelistic films and satellite TV hook-ups.

By his final crusade in 2005 in New York City, he had preached in person to more than 210 million people worldwide.

More to come.

AP/ABC