Renowned Christian evangelist Reverend Billy Graham may have touched the lives of his millions, but he was known as a humble man who wanted people to remember him as being “faithful.”
The body of Graham, who died Wednesday morning, is not going to be buried in a fancy, expensive casket. Rather, his body will be laid to rest in a simple $200 coffin made of pine and plywood.
But that’s not all. At the request of Billy Graham’s son, fellow evangelist Franklin Graham, the casket was built by prison inmates — including a convicted murderer.
In 2005, Franklin, the president of the Billy Graham Evangelist Association, toured Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana. In addition to being known as the “Alcatraz of the south,” the facility also has a busy prison ministry, according to WAFB.
For years, inmates at the penitentiary have been building coffins for fellow inmates who die while they are serving out their sentences.
When Franklin Graham saw this, he asked if the inmates could do something similar for his own parents.
“He asked if they could make one for his mother and father,” said Graham family spokesperson Mark DeMoss. “The caskets are made of pine, plywood and lined with a mattress pad. A wooden cross is nailed to the top of the casket.”
Richard “Grasshopper” Liggett, who was in prison for second-degree murder, helped build the caskets for the Grahams. He was aided by inmates Clarence Wilkerson and David Bacon, and at the request of the Grahams, the names of the inmates who built the coffins were wood-burned into their work.
“I respect the man. I’ve listened to him. I know what he preaches. You know, but other than that, I just wanted to do the best job I could,” said Liggett, who died in 2007.
When Billy Graham’s wife, Ruth Graham, died — also in 2007 — she was buried in one of the caskets.
Neither coffin got any special upgrade, though they received minor modifications to make them easier to transport. When Billy Graham’s casket is stationary, there will be white lilies on top of it, according to WCNC.
Burl Cain, the former warden at the Angola state penitentiary, praised the work that the Graham family did to help transform the prison, noting that not only did they visit multiple times, but they also donated thousands of dollars for the construction of two chapels on the prison’s grounds.
“They’re really part of the transition that was there,” Cain told The Advocate. “The place was blessed because of them.”
The evangelist will be buried on the grounds of the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina, alongside his wife.
Graham’s private funeral is set to be held on March 2, with the invitees including President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, as well as former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter.
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