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. Jacqui says:

    Gone to live with Jesus forever. God bless you Dr . Billy Graham for your faithful service to Christ. I pray and want to do the same. Thanks be to God.

  2. Michael A Campagna, Jr. says:

    RIP Billy Graham!

  3. Rebecca Durham says:

    I am the proud granddaughter of the late Rev. Paul Joseph Lambert. He loved Rev. Billy Graham and so did I. My heart goes out to the family during this time of grief. But, I also bind together with them to celebrate this great man’s life. God bless you, and as Rev. Billy Graham would say, “God loves you! God loves you! God loves you!”

  4. Ruth Martin says:

    To God be the Glory!! We really were blessed to watch Brother Graham preach the gospel and his legacy will bless many in years to come!!! May God bless his family. 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼

  5. Abena Tawiah says:

    Rest well, servant of God.

  6. Lindsay Poortenga says:

    When I was a little girl our family would go to the Billy Graham Crusades in Chicago. We lived in a suburb near there. My mom had packed sandwiches to eat in the car. It was quite an experience for me. I remember singing and people going forward. The one thing that always struck me was that Mr.Graham never asked for money. He only wanted you to believe.

  7. Yvonne Shaffer says:

    Praise God for His choice of a perfectly humble messenger in a perfectly humble pine box. Rest in God’s peace.

  8. Tolulope A Kadiri says:

    An awesome man. Nothing but a child of God. An example of a life we should strive to live.

  9. Mr and Mrs Michael Anderson says:

    Thank you Lord for sending Billy Graham to us and thanks Billy for doing your work.

  10. Delia Lizarraga says:

    While attending a Billy Graham conference at age 13, I came to the Lord. His gentle and loving persuasion helped me pray the sinners’ prayer. Thus began my journey with my Savior Jesus the Christ. Billy Graham was a true warrior of God. Our world has lost a gift from God. My deepest condolences to his beautiful family.