My Turn: Renee Scheidt: Native son Billy Graham’s statue placed in U.S. Capitol

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 21, 2024

By Renee Scheidt

How did a boy who grew up on a dairy farm in Mecklenburg County become one of the most respected, well-recognized men in the world?  What fueled this simple man and enabled him to influence people around the globe, culminating in his statue being placed in the United States Capital Building? The unlikely story of this humble man from Charlotte receiving such notoriety stands as a testament to the power of God’s Word, the Bible.  

This is the story of William Franklin Graham Jr., known throughout the world simply as “Billy Graham.” This past Thursday, his statue was unveiled in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall. It is one of only two each state is allowed, honoring deceased individuals who greatly impacted the world. In 2015, our state Legislature selected Graham to hold this place, a representation of the embodiment of North Carolinians’ values. His efforts to follow and live like Christ set an example that stood strong throughout his life which spanned 99 years. I’m proud our state has upheld Him as worthy of our admiration.  

It’s particularly interesting to those who live in Rowan County that the pink granite used for the statue’s base came from Salisbury. I’m thrilled to see this sculpture of a godly man from our area displayed in the U.S. Capitol, standing on granite sourced from our town.

What motivated Billy Graham to live such an exemplary life and preach to millions? Did he seek money or desire to be famous? Was it his goal to become so powerful that presidents and world leaders sought out his counsel? 

Dr. Graham had no ambition for earthly fame and fortune. The secret to his greatness is found in the best-selling book of all time, the Bible. Although raised in church, it was not until attending a revival meeting led by Evangelist Mordecai Ham that he placed his faith in Christ for salvation. A few years later, while a student at Wheaten College, Henrietta Mears from First Presbyterian Church, Hollywood, California, helped him wrestle with the question, “Is the Bible the infallible Word of God?” Once he determined it was truly God’s revelation to mankind, there was no stopping him. Assured of this fact, Graham began preaching the gospel as if life and death depended on it. He knew it did.

Because of his conviction that God’s Word is truth, Graham preached what the Bible taught, popular or not. Billy claimed Heaven and Hell are real. Once our bodies of flesh wear out and die, life in eternity begins. Where a person spends eternity, either with God in Heaven or separated from Him in Hell, depends on what he does with Jesus Christ. Salvation is not achieved by a person’s works, for no one can be good enough to earn eternal life. It is given as the free “gift of God, not of works” (Ephesians 2:8,9) to all who receive Christ by faith. Those who place their faith in Jesus as the one who paid sin’s penalty on the cross, are then “born again.” Those who reject Christ, receive the consequences of their choice, separation from God for Eternity in a place the Bible calls Hell. Forcefully and with great passion, Billy wanted the world to know these truths. Throughout his long life, he never shied from telling the world this message.

Two Bible verses are engraved on Graham’s granite pedestal. He staked his eternal existence on their truth. John 3:16, which says, “For God so loved the world, He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish but have everlasting life.” This, in a nutshell, spoken by Jesus, is the good news of the gospel.

The other verse is “I am the way, the truth, the life. No man comes to the Father but by me,” (John 14:6). Billy preached there’s only one way for salvation. Not many ways, just one. Those who disagreed could take it up with Jesus, for they were Christ’s very words. Billy was just the parrot.

Although Billy lived to see the Bible mocked and thrown out of society, he never wavered. He knew the truth — and never stopped preaching it. Billy may be gone from planet Earth, but the message he preached still rings out to all willing to listen.

Renee Scheidt lives in Salisbury.