Thomas Walter "T. W." Wilson, who for decades served as Billy Graham's executive assistant traveling worldwide to evangelistic crusades, died on Thursday, near his home in Asheville, North Carolina.

According to, a newspaper Web site in Ashville, North Carolina, Wilson was having lunch with his wife, Mary Helen, at Black Mountain when he was stricken. His wife drove him to an urgent care center, where he died from an apparent heart attack.

According to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Wilson, 82, was recovering from the effects of a stroke two years ago. "Ruth and I have lost one of the closest friends we ever had," Graham said in a prepared statement. "He was a companion on most of the trips I have taken since 1962 all over the world.

"We prayed, laughed and wept on hundreds of occasions. I feel his loss very deeply, but I know where he is. He is in the presence of Jesus, and that's where he longed to be most of his life. Even though he had retired, he will be greatly missed by hundreds of people in our organization. He was a great and wonderful friend to me and my family. Our love and hearts go out to his family—his wife Mary Helen, his son Jim, his daughter Sally, and their wonderful families. He loved them dearly. They will miss him the most."

In an interview with Christianity Today, songleader Cliff Barrows said Wilson's "great gift was to identify, to sympathize, and to minister to people who were such a vital part of our organization. I met him as a freshman in college in 1940, and he was very warm and personal to me as a freshman."

Barrows said Wilson thrived in a team-based approach to ministry. "Life is not a solo existence. Effective work in evangelism is not a solo ministry. It is a team of people whose hearts God has knit together. I've been with him for 56 years. We still feel that same bond of oneness and support.

"He had a great gift as an evangelist, but he gave that up for what he felt was a higher responsibility when Billy asked him to travel with him."

Wilson was an ordained Southern Baptist minister. He graduated from college in 1941 with an A.B. degree in religion followed by graduate work at the University of Alabama. He served as pastor of Baptist churches in Alabama and Georgia before becoming vice president of Youth for Christ International.

From 1948 through 1951, Wilson was vice president of Northwestern Schools in Minneapolis, while Billy Graham was president of the institution. Wilson, as an evangelist, preached through the United States and many foreign countries before becoming an associate evangelist with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

A memorial service is planned for 2 p.m., May 28, 2001 at the First Baptist Church of Swannanoa, North Carolina.

Related Elsewhere:

A biographical sketch of T. W. Wilson is available on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Web site. You can also read the BGEA press release announcing Dr. Wilson's death.

An obituary appeared Friday morning on the Web site of the Ashville, North Carolina, Citizen-Times.

Stories and memories of T. W. Wilson are included in A Prophet with Honor, William Martin's 1991 biography of Billy Graham, and in Graham's 1997 autobiography Just as I Am.