Ruth Bell Graham died today at the age of 87. She was the wife of evangelist Billy Graham and the mother of their five children. The obituary from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association reports that Billy and their children were all present by her bedside as she passed away in Little Piney Cove, their expansive homestead in Montreat, North Carolina. The Los Angeles Times reports that Ruth will be buried at the foot of the cross in the Prayer Garden of the recently-opened Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina.
My wife and I visited the Billy Graham Library just this past Tuesday, stopping by on our drive home from Florida. We took a number of pictures, including this one of the Prayer Garden where Ruth will be memorialized. It is a beautiful, peaceful setting, adjacent to the Library and the recreated Graham Family Homestead.
Among the many exhibits in the Library is a special room devoted to the life of Ruth Graham. She was a remarkable woman who led a full life. She was born in China as the daughter of Presbyterian missionaries Dr. Nelson and Virginia Bell. Early in her life, Ruth had dreamed of being a missionary in Tibet. But then Ruth met Billy while they were students at Wheaton College in Illinois. They were married in 1943, shortly after they graduated from Wheaton. I took the picture below of Ruth’s diploma from Wheaton, which is on display in the Library. Next to the diploma is one of the tin cans she made into light fixtures in the Graham home in Montreat, North Carolina. Apparently she was a very resourceful homemaker.
The Billy Graham Library is really more of a museum than a library. For scholars, historians and others interested in Dr. Graham’s papers and writings, a more academic library is located at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College. Nevertheless, the Billy Graham Library is certainly worth a visit if you’re in the Charlotte area. There are numerous multimedia exhibits in the Library, as well as a bookstore and a small cafe. If you take the complete tour, you can expect to be exposed to some mild proselytizing, including the traditional “invitation” in the “finale” theater, with the obligatory “Just As I Am” music in the background and a group of counselors waiting to pray with you as you leave the auditorium. But to anyone who has attended a Billy Graham crusade or watched one on television, the evangelistic flavor of the closing moments of the tour seems entirely fitting. Indeed, I remarked to my wife as we were leaving how I thought today’s preachers could benefit from the simple, direct and positive approach that was Dr. Graham’s hallmark.
The Billy Graham Library is located at 4330 Westmont Drive, just off of Billy Graham Parkway, and not far from I-77 and the Charlotte airport. Admission is free, and the complete tour takes about an hour or so. If you would like to see more pictures from our visit, I’ve posted some in a Picassa Web Album.