December 13, 2006

Graham Family at Odds Over Burial Site


CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A family feud has broken out over where ailing evangelist Billy Graham and his equally frail wife, Ruth, will be buried.

The couple had long been expected to place their graves at The Cove, a Bible training center near the Grahams' mountainside home at Montreat, but now those plans are uncertain.

Mark DeMoss, a spokesman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, acknowledged Wednesday that the family is now divided on the issue. He said the burial could be at The Cove or at a museum and library being built at the association's Charlotte headquarters.

"Obviously, there has to be a decision at some point," DeMoss said Wednesday. "Whether that would be in the coming weeks or just upon death, I don't know."

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Ned Graham, the couple's younger son, opposes burial at the museum, while evangelist Franklin Graham, 54, who has taken over leadership of the his father's association, wants the graves to be located in Charlotte.

Franklin Graham said in a statement that he considers the discussion "to be a personal one and (I) do not intend to debate it publicly."

"I believe that the decision about where my parents will be buried should be made by them, and not by me, my siblings or any outsiders," he said.

Billy Graham, 88, has been in frail health for years and suffers from Parkinson's disease, among several other ailments. Ruth Graham, 86, is bedridden with degeneration of the spine.

The $25 million, 40,000-square-foot Graham museum is designed to look like a dairy barn that might have existed on the farm where Billy Graham grew up outside Charlotte. It is scheduled to open in the spring.

DeMoss said the only thing he is sure of regarding Ruth Graham's wishes is that she wants to be buried next to her husband.


On the Net:

Billy Graham Evangelistic Association: http://www.billygraham.org/