Shortly after you leave the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, N.C., you swing onto The Billy Graham Parkway. He is arguably this city's favorite -- and certainly most famous -- son. So it is no surprise that today's dedication of the Billy Graham Library is earning live television coverage here.
On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to tour the 40,000-square-foot library with Franklin Graham who now heads his father's ministry. As you walk beneath the 40-foot cross that frames the entrance, you are first struck that there are no statues or busts of Billy Graham. Though in many ways it is similar to presidential libraries, the elder Graham insisted this would not be a monument or tribute to him, but rather an instrument with which to further his life-long message about Jesus Christ as a path to salvation.
As we made our way through the exhibits, it became clear the library will have a profound spiritual impact on believers. There is a canvas tent set up in the fashion of Graham's earliest crusades -- what Graham himself referred to as the "canvas cathedral." There are also moving video testimonials from people who explain how their lives were profoundly changed after hearing his message. You leave the last exhibit walking through a towering series of glass cutouts of a cross. Franklin explained to me the library is meant to leave visitors examining their relationship with Jesus.No matter your faith, however, you can also argue the library offers an incredible history lesson. There are reminders everywhere of Graham's incredible reach and influence and the historic moments he has been a part of. A replica of Checkpoint Charlie, the border crossing between former West and East Germany, tells the story of Graham's groundbreaking trip behind the iron curtain. His son Franklin reminded me that at the time many of his supporters and even his own family urged him not to go. "We were all afraid for him, because, you know we just suspect, 'Oh, they're going to do something' or 'Oh, they're going to poison him.' But none of that happened," his son Franklin said. In his 60-year-long ministry, Billy Graham appeared before an estimated 210 million people in 185 countries. He comforted nations in times of crisis, and even counseled presidents -- 11 of them.I'll have more on the museum and my tour and conversation with Franklin Graham on tonight's edition of NBC Nightly News.
All photos by NBC Producer Joo Lee.