The Rev. Billy Graham, the internationally revered Christian evangelist who died early Wednesday, is expected to be buried in a coffin built years ago by inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.
After having seen the coffins built by and for inmates on a visit to the state's only maximum-security prison in the early 2000s, Graham's son Franklin Graham requested the same coffins for his parents, former Angola Warden Burl Cain said.
MONTREAT, N.C. (AP) — The Rev. Billy Graham, who transformed American religious life through his preaching and activism, becoming a counselor …
"It's incredible," Cain said Wednesday. "That's what Billy Graham's going to be buried in, one of those coffins from Angola."
Cain said the coffins were plain, but that's what drew Franklin Graham to them. The coffins were made of wood and lined with comforters from Walmart, Cain said.
Billy Graham's wife, Ruth Graham, was buried in a coffin from Angola, said Ken Pastorick, Louisiana Department of Corrections spokesman.
Cain said the Grahams requested that the names of the inmates who worked on their construction be wood-burned onto the coffins.
Former offenders Richard "Grasshopper" Liggett, who died in 2007, Clarence Wilkerson, who died earlier this month, and David Bacon, who was released in December 2016 after Gov. John Bel Edwards commuted his sentence, worked on the coffins for the Grahams, Pastorick said.
Bacon, the only craftsman still alive, could not be reached Wednesday by The Advocate.
Cain credits much of the transformation of Angola — from one of the deadliest prisons in the late 20th century to a place of spirituality by the early 2000s — to the Graham family, who donated thousands of dollars to build two chapels on the prison's property. He said Graham's children visited the prison multiple times and preached to the inmates.
"They're really part of the transition that was there," Cain said, noting they spent time with the prisoners.
"The place was blessed because of them."