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. Janie Yearout says:

    God bless you, Billy Graham. We will all miss you so much. To God be the Glory.

  2. Veronica A Johnson says:

    Rev. Billy Graham was a part of our household. We watched his many Crusades. I can remember as a child on the floor, chin in hand being so amazed at all the people. I confessed Christ at the age of 12 and would like to think the many words from Rev. Graham helped to get me there and guide me along the way. I don’t think my mom missed very many of his Crusades. She is now 89 years young on Feb. 14. RIP Pastor Graham. I can see your smile as you walk the heavens with the Father.

  3. Dorothy Nall says:

    I will truly miss Billy Graham. He was a big influence in my life. I was at a Crusade in Greensboro, NC, when I was a child and my ears listened to every word. Not long after I was saved. God bless this simple man.

  4. Rev Samuel Adu-Gyamfi says:

    Well done, good and faithful servant. May God give us a double portion of your humble, evangelistic and preaching anointing. See you in heaven! Da yie (sleep well).

  5. Linda Munn says:

    I am 70 years old. As a little girl, my parents and I would gather around the black and white TV and listen to his message. Dad has been gone 54 years and Mom almost 13. Once Mom saw him in person in Dallas. Thank God for giving the people a sincere and faithful servant that truly loved Jesus Christ. May God bless his family and thank you for sharing him with the world.

  6. Judy Senkler says:

    Billy Graham is now rejoicing in heaven with the Lord he loved and reunited with his beloved wife. I’m so happy for him, but sorrowful for the family and friends he left behind as I’m sure he will be greatly missed.

  7. Victoria Grace says:

    I like the saying of the casket builder: “Billy Graham is a simple man who preached a simple message. He must be buried in a simple casket.” Praise and glory to God.

  8. JoyceGarcia says:

    Dr. Billy Graham was the most humble and respected man in our nation and all over the world. I can just see Jesus receiving him and placing on Billy’s head his crown with many jewels. My prayers of comfort go to his family and may Billy’s legacy be remembered throughout the world where he touched so many lives. He will surely be missed.

  9. Debbie Gill says:

    I’m shocked and saddened upon hearing the loss of Mr. Graham. I am very impressed about his life’s devotion to God. I must admit to not being a devout church goer. I pray at home, I am disabled and am about to lose my foot. I ask your prayers to be for losing the Reverand Billy Graham’s soul as he finally went on to his reward of being in heaven with our Lord. Amen.

  10. Dave Ludema says:

    Praise God for Billy Graham. I am 66 years old and remember my dear mother always turning on the TV to watch Rev. Graham’s Crusades. My brothers and sisters and myself would be thinking that we wanted to watch something else, but soon we were captivated by Rev. Graham’s wonderful message of salvation through Jesus Christ! It was also so great to see so many people streaming to the front to accept Jesus Christ. May God continue to bless Rev. Graham’s family!