The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) celebrates the life and ministry of William “Billy” Franklin Graham, Jr., who died Feb. 21 at his home in Montreat, N.C. He was 99.

“Billy Graham has been the best known face and voice of evangelicalism for more than half a century,” said Leith Anderson, NAE President. “With Christian graciousness, he transcended political and religious differences to faithfully proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Graham is credited as preaching the gospel to nearly 215 million, not including those reached by his robust television, video and print ministries. He met with 12 U.S. Presidents and was named to Gallup’s “Ten Most Admired Men in the World” 54 times. He also appeared on the covers of Time, Newsweek, Life, U.S. News and World Report, Parade, and numerous other magazines.

After serving briefly as a pastor in Western Springs, Ill., Billy Graham began his public career as an evangelist with Youth for Christ in 1945. Graham quickly became personal friends with many early leaders of the NAE and credited the NAE network for playing a large role in the effectiveness of his early crusades. By 1950, he was launched into international prominence and founded the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Graham regularly spoke at NAE conventions and events.

“Billy Graham loved God, and we loved Billy Graham. We will miss him,” Anderson said.

Graham graduated from the Florida Bible Institute (now Trinity College) in 1940, and received a B.A. from Wheaton College. In 1943, he married Wheaton classmate, Ruth Bell, who passed away in 2007. He received numerous awards of recognition and honorary degrees for his contributions to religious and civic life. Graham wrote 27 books, many of which have become best sellers.

Billy Graham is survived by three daughters, two sons, 19 grandchildren and numerous great grandchildren.