'It was electricity in the air:' Garden City resident recalls Rev. Graham’s visit after Hugo

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – Rev. Billy Graham, the man known as "America's Pastor" who died at the age of 99, left his mark on seemingly every corner of the world, the Grand Strand being one of them.

In 1989, Graham accompanied former South Carolina Gov. Carroll Campbell to Garden City to see the destruction left by Hurricane Hugo. He also brought a message of hope to the community.

Garden City Baptist Church member Gene King held onto the video he captured that day because, "well, it's Billy Graham; I have to."

King didn't think that 29 years later, he would watch it in Graham's honor. He remembered shaking the reverend's hand on that day.

"Oh, I was walking on clouds because, you know, he was my hero as so many others and at that moment I felt that we knew each other, you know for a moment," he said.

Almost 30 years later, the feeling remains.

"You could just feel in the air, the people, the excitement of Dr. Graham being here, plus the governor of South Carolina being here," King said. "We felt honored that they would come and, you know, have feelings for us. So it was just, you had to be there. It was electricity in the air."

Hundreds of people filled Garden City Baptist's sanctuary, parking lot and lawn to catch a glimpse of Graham that special day. During his message to the church congregation, he said he would visit Myrtle Beach growing up and the people of South Carolina had a strength.

"He had the audience of all different presidents, world leaders, and he still had a moment for you. It didn't change him; he still loved the same lord Jesus Christ," King said.

King's video, he said, doesn't do justice to the feeling of having him in Garden City.

"Later I received a letter from his office and it looked like his signature, thanking me for what I did, and then I was on his Christmas card list for years," he said. "You never heard anything bad about him. I mean, you know how other people, their lives have been tainted some way or the other, but with him I've never heard anything bad."

It was as if Graham stayed the same through all the years.

"My grandfather used to say they broke the mold when he was made and you could feel in his voice, in his talking to you, that he was concerned and he didn't want people to blame God because this is something that happened by nature," King said.

Graham ended his message that day by saying:

We have confidence in Him and know that when we die which will be the greater crisis you'll face, because no one will be with you. You will walk through that gate alone and if you know Christ there will be an angel there to guide you right into the presence of Christ. I am looking forward to that day.

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