Billy Graham to Be Laid to Rest in Casket Made by Prison Inmates

The body of Billy Graham rests behind a pulpit at The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, N.C. in a simple pine casket made by prison inmates
Getty; Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

Inmates at Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola constructed the casket in 2006.

Rev. Billy Graham will be laid to rest in a simple handmade casket that was constructed by prison inmates, officials said.

Graham’s coffin is made of plywood, lined with a mattress pad and adorned with a wooden cross, a spokesman for the family said.

Inmates at the nation's largest maximum security prison, Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, constructed the casket at the request of Graham’s son in 2006.

“While touring the correctional facility after preaching there in 2005, Graham's son Franklin saw caskets being built,” the family’s spokesperson said in a statement. “Inmates at Angola make caskets for other inmates who cannot afford to purchase one. Moved by this, the younger Graham requested that inmates make caskets for his mother and father.”

The Graham family requested no upgrades to the plywood casket, and only a few modifications were made to make transporting it easier.

It cost about $200 to make and was built by 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, The Advocate reported.

Liggett, who was serving a life sentence for second-degree murder before his death, led the group in the casket's construction. 

"Humbled? He was honored; he was honored," former Angola Warden Burl Cain told The Washington Post in 2007, shortly after Liggett's death. "He told me, of everything that ever happened in his life, the most profound thing was to build this coffin for Billy Graham and his family."

Graham's late wife, Ruth, was buried on June 17, 2007, in an identical casket that was also made at Angola.

The connection to Angola was a personal one for the Graham family, which Cain said was instrumental in rehabilitating the facility referred to as the "Alcatraz of the south."

The family donated thousands to build two chapels on the prison’s property and visited with and preached to inmates numerous times, he told The Advocate.

A chapel at Angola was dedicated in Billy Graham's honor in 2006.

"They're really part of the transition that was there," Cain said. "The place was blessed because of them."