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 ...

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