JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - For eight years, every time I reported for work at my TV station in Charlotte, North Carolina I drove down Billy Graham Parkway. It felt like his name, his picture and his message were everywhere.
Initially, the Rev. Graham was not someone I thought much about. After all, I was living in the land of Jim Bakker and other televangelists who, at the time, seemed to be more concerned about people spreading open their wallets than spreading the Gospel.
But Graham was revered and, in the years to come, I would learn why.
He took his crusade to Charlotte in 1996 and I remember during our coverage of his visit realizing what a unifier he was. He focused on what we have in common instead of what divided us.
I recall racial tension in the city around that time, but that tension seemed to melt away when people talked of Billy Graham and his message, if only for a moment.
He was a hometown favorite because Charlotte was his hometown. He was born in the city and will be buried there.
It was especially fascinating to me, reporting on Graham on the day of his death, to learn about the impact Graham had also had on the people of Jacksonville, which would become my permanent home.
Father Nicholas Louh, of the St. John the Devine Greek Orthodox Church, recalled how the evangelist was a hero to him and talked glowingly of the unity he felt when Graham came to Jacksonville in 2000.
"Despite his deep conviction of his Christian faith, was a symbol of hope that drew people, no matter who they were, no matter where they were in their walk of faith, he drew people to him," he said as we sat in the sanctuary of the church where he now preaches.
I asked him if he thought there was another Billy Graham in our midst and he told me, not right now.
"Maybe later?" I asked.
"I hope so," he said.
My hope is that the legacy of Rev. Graham, no matter what you believe, will serve as a reminder that we are better together than divided.
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