Somber farewell as Billy Graham procession leaves Asheville for Charlotte

People line the street as the hearse carrying the body of Rev. Billy Graham leaves the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018 in Asheville, N.C. Graham's body will be brought to his hometown of Charlotte on Saturday, Feb. 24, as part of a procession expected to draw crowds of well-wishers. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek, Pool)

It was a somber farewell for many as the Billy Graham procession left The Cove near Asheville, North Carolina Saturday.

The procession left shortly after 11 a.m. and then went through the downtown of Black Mountain, a small town to the east.

People said their final farewell to a man dubbed "pastor to the presidents," but also known as a hometown hero. In Black Mountain, people packed the sidewalks.

Jim Meadows is a local who grew up watching the late reverend on TV.

“When I was little kid, he brought tears to my eyes,” Meadows remembered.

Among the crowd was Artimus Pyle, famous for his time drumming in Lynyrd Skynyrd. Pyle said he remembered meeting Graham as a child, and the experience stuck with him his whole life.

“When I was walking out from the plane crash with Lynyrd Skynyrd, I felt like Billy Graham was an angel on my shoulder,” Pyle remembered.

Onlookers craned for a glimpse of the procession. Some said they came for religious reasons, and others said they just wanted to be a part of history, as the world’s eyes turned to North Carolina.

Ann Lyons drove from Texas to be a part of it all, saying Graham helped her find peace in her father’s recent passing.

“I realized when I was driving, what a blessing my dad gets to see Billy Graham coming into heaven,” Lyons said.

The motorcade carrying the casket arrived in Charlotte around 3 p.m. Saturday.

The body of the Reverend Billy Graham will lie in repose in the library there, in the city where he was born, and will be buried.

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