By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
ALEXANDRIA (LBM) – David Bacon was one of two inmates who built the casket for Billy Graham and another for his son, Franklin, who is president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Four other Angola inmates built a casket for Graham’s wife, Ruth, who died June 14, 2007.
Bacon, who was paroled in December 2016 after serving 29 years in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, is the only one of the six who still is living.
In an exclusive interview with the Baptist Message, Bacon said the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was instrumental in helping him seek forgiveness for a chaotic past life that included an absentee father and a life sentence for a 1988 murder.
Bacon said that during a 1993 BGEA-led chapel service conducted on the prison grounds he repented of his sins and put his trust in Jesus.
“While incarcerated, with help from ministries like Billy Graham’s, I got to know God, and developed a relationship with God, and, received Jesus as Lord and found love, guidance, acceptance and approval that I didn’t find with my biological father, my earthly father,” Bacon said. “I found it with THE Father.”
Bacon was working in the prison carpentry shop as a trustee in 2006 when he was chosen to make the plywood casket for Graham. He said he was humbled and overcome with joy to be given the honor.
“He was a simple man who preached a simple message and wanted to be [buried] in a simple casket,” Bacon said.
“He was very humble. He exhibited the love of God towards people in prison and people in general,” Bacon said. “He treated us no different from any other individual that walked the face of the earth. He said that nobody was beyond redemption and that God loved us and he loved us. It was a great honor to have a part in building that casket for him. He touched my life and many other lives at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola and abroad. He was an awesome man of God.”
As Bacon watched with millions of others around the world the live footage of the very same casket he built in 2006, a feeling of gratefulness filled his heart for the unique connection with the famed evangelist.
“It’s very special,” Bacon said. “I know that the Reverend Graham is with God now. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. I know that he is present with the Lord as we speak and I’ll see him again.”
Bacon later worked on caskets for such high-profile individuals as George Beverly Shea, a long-time soloist for Graham’s crusades, “Bum” Phillips, head coach of the New Orleans Saints from 1981 to 1985, and Chuck Colson, who founded Prison Fellowship International after serving a seven-month prison sentence on obstruction of justice charges stemming from his role in the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974.