Although Billy Graham was one of the most famous beloved preachers in the history of the world, he lived a deeply humble life.
The legendary Christian evangelist passed away last week at the edge of 99. Graham will exit this world the way he entered it, in complete humility. Thousands will view Graham’s casket lying in honor at the US Capitol Wednesday and millions more will see images of it. Even though the casket is resting in one of the highest places of honor in our country, the casket itself tells a story of the man inside.
Few know that the casket was crafted by prisoners. Hardened criminals in Louisiana built the casket at a cost of less than $200. They nailed a handmade wooden cross to the top of it and the Graham family thought it was a perfect final vessel for their father.
The casket was picked out by Billy Graham’s son Franklin. Franklin commissioned the prisoners to build the casket, saying, “Billy Graham is a simple man who preached a simple message. He must be buried in a simple casket.”
According to the family’s story about the casket:
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.