A Simple Casket for Billy Graham, Pastor to Millions

By   •   February 23, 2018

Billy Graham's casket in Asheville
Billy Graham's casket was taken to the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove on Thursday, Feb. 22. From there, it will be transported to the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte before being taken to Washington, D.C., and back to Charlotte, its final resting place.

A simple casket for a simple man with a profoundly simple message of God’s love: That’s what visitors will see when they pay their respects to Billy Graham, the North Carolina-born evangelist who traveled the globe during his lifetime sharing the Gospel with some 215 million people.

The pine plywood casket, crafted in 2006 by inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana, is lined with a mattress pad. On top rests a simple wooden cross the prisoners nailed into place.

>> Find out more about memorial events in honor of Billy Graham

The plain wooden caskets caught Franklin Graham’s eye during a 2005 preaching engagement at Angola. That’s when he saw the inmates hard at work crafting them, and he soon learned why. The initiative began when then-warden Burl Cain discovered many of the poorer inmates were being buried in cardboard boxes.

As a result, Cain had the inmates construct plywood caskets for themselves and others who couldn’t afford one. In addition to making the caskets, the prisoners—many of them former hardened criminals who are now committed Christians—also pray over them.

Franklin Graham was struck by the simple and natural beauty of these caskets and requested the prisoners design and build two of them for his parents. Billy and Ruth Grahams’ caskets were built by inmate Richard “Grasshopper” Liggett, with the help of others. Their names are burned into the wood.

“I liked the simple coffin with a cross on top,” Franklin Graham said in 2006.

While the Grahams requested no special upgrades to the caskets, which cost around $200 to make, there were some slight modifications made to facilitate transportation to multiple locations. Mr. Graham’s casket will be transported from Asheville, North Carolina, to nearby Charlotte this Saturday. He will lie in repose at the Billy Graham Homeplace on the grounds of the Billy Graham Library on Monday and Tuesday, before going to lie in honor at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 28 and March 1.

On Friday, March 2, a private funeral service will be held in Charlotte, where Mr. Graham will be buried beside his wife in the Prayer Garden of the Billy Graham Library. Ruth Bell Graham, who often visited prisoners and fed many in her home after their release, was buried in her Angola-crafted casket in 2007.

In 2008, Franklin Graham visited Angola again, this time to dedicate a prisoner-built, privately funded chapel. Prison chaplain Jim Rentz shared the following memory during the service.

“I want to tell you what Grasshopper said when he made Billy’s Graham’s casket. He said, ‘Billy Graham is a simple man who preached a simple message. He must be buried in a simple casket.’”

>> Visit Billy Graham’s memorial website for continuous streaming coverage, updates on memorial events and to express your memories and condolences.

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  1. Karen McCabe says:

    Praise the Lord for this servant’s awesome service.

  2. Andrea Stephenson says:

    Billy Graham preached the gospel publicly for the whole world. He called his congregation publicly to repentance, just as Jesus called his disciples publicly. Now the whole world is witnessing a mighty man of God, leaving this life and now sitting at the right hand of God, our Father. Let’s live and learn from this prophetic era, and wrap ourselves in the Word of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

  3. Rev. John Forde says:

    I praise God with Evangelist Billy Graham’s promotion to Heaven. The pastor was loved all over the world. I have often pointed our Bible school students to the ministry’s website for them to reflect on the simplicity and power of his messages. I too have watched many of them since coming to Christ back in 2000. I pray God’s continued blessings on his family and the ministry. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

  4. Doug Prather says:

    …I can only imagine his reaction when he stepped foot into heaven and truly saw the face of Jesus.

  5. Frances S Barrera says:

    Praise The Lord! This is awesome to see. What wonderful man of God! I was touched by his ministry at age 15. But I did not get saved until I was 33. I knew my heart and His plans are perfect for my life! Thank you Jesus! I believe many will still be reached for the Lord through this going home for his servant!!

  6. Marilynn R. Meinzer says:

    May God bless and keep Billy Graham and his wife and family forever.

  7. Rod Kimberley says:

    Only the Lord knows how many souls were harvested by Billy and the work of the Holy Spirit.

  8. Tricia Howry says:

    What a great man with a simple message, the Good News of Jesus Christ. Billy Graham always wanted to become small so Jesus could become the center. Oh that we all would live like that. He has his reward now in heaven. I never met you here on this earth but I am looking forward to praising Jesus with you in heaven one day.

  9. Etta Gill says:

    The church has lost a brother…the world has lost a prophet!

  10. Joy T Mical says:

    We all need to follow in his footsteps. A simple servant. He’s in a glorious home with the King of Glory!