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Rev. Billy Graham honored with statue unveiled at US Capitol: 'One of America's greatest citizens'

A statue honoring the Rev. Billy Graham was unveiled on Thursday, May 16, at the U.S. Capitol. The statue is one of two that represents prominent North Carolinians.

Rev. Billy Graham was remembered as "one of America's greatest citizens and enduring heroes" during an unveiling ceremony of a statue in his honor at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, May 16.

The event featured speeches from House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D), members of North Carolina's congressional delegation, and Rev. Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham and the CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse. Singer Michael W. Smith also performed. 

The statue unveiling "truly is a historic moment," said Johnson in comments shared with Fox News Digital. He noted that only four people in the history of the United States have been honored with three distinctions: a Congressional Gold Medal, lying in state after their death, and receiving a statue at the U.S. Capitol.

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"Two of them are presidents – Presidents Ford and Reagan – and one is Rosa Parks," he said. "And the other, as of today, will be Rev. Billy Graham." 

Graham, said Johnson, was the "leading ambassador for the Kingdom of our lifetimes." 

"Today, North Carolina gives the nation a symbol representing one of our dearest treasures, the Rev. Billy Graham: a man of faith, a man of North Carolina," said Cooper. 

"He brought together people of different faiths, and different races," Cooper also said, noting that Graham is "a better representation of our state than the statue it replaces, which brought memories of a painful history of racism."

Graham's statue replaces that of Charles Aycock, a former North Carolina governor. 

The sculpture unveiled on Thursday was created in Billy Graham’s hometown of Charlotte by Charlotte-based artist Chas Fagan.

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In 2015, North Carolina's lawmakers passed legislation calling for the replacement of Aycock's statue with one honoring Graham — although because Graham was still alive, the process could not yet move forward. 

Each state gets to place two statues in the Capitol, but those who are so honored must be deceased.

Shortly after Graham's death on Feb. 21, 2018, plans for a statue of him in the U.S. Capitol began in earnest. 

"Not that Rev. Graham was perfect — he would have been the first to tell us that," said Cooper. 

"Instead, he realized that he and all of us here today have feet of clay, we are imperfect, we have been found wanting. But he believed, as many of us do, that there is redemption," he said in comments provided to Fox News Digital. 

Graham dedicated his life to "delivering that message" of redemption. 

Additionally, Graham recognized the important role of public servants, said Cooper, and "whoever was in that office, deserved the presumption of good faith, the power of prayer, the gift of his wisdom, friendship and advice."

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"He did not seek to bludgeon or deify any political candidate or party," said Cooper.

"Instead, he would use his magnetic, loving and persuasive gifts to counsel and lift in prayer political leaders of both parties." 

Graham "treated all with dignity and respect."

Rev. Franklin Graham noted that his father's humble nature was in contrast to the statue's prominence. 

"My father would be a little uncomfortable with this being here," said Franklin Graham, gesturing to the statue. "Because he would want the focus to be on the one that he preached — he would want the focus to be on the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God."

"On the base, John 3:16, John 14:6 [are] inscribed, and of course, John 3:16 gives the Gospel — that God so loved this world that He sent His Son on a rescue mission to save sinners," he also said.

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"He didn’t come to condemn, he came to save," he said.

This, said Franklin Graham, was the message his father preached throughout his life. 

"My father believed it. He believed the Bible, cover to cover. He didn’t understand it all, but he certainly believed it all, every word of it."

"Our family is honored that our earthly father will be here in this Capitol, pointing future generations to our heavenly father, and His Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ." 

Maureen Mackey of Fox News Digital contributed reporting. 

For more Lifestyle articles, visit www.foxnews.com/lifestyle.

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