ASHEVILLE, N.C. “ On a visit to the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, La., in 2005, Franklin Graham noticed some coffins being produced by the inmates. Upon inquiry, he learned this was a project inmates began several years ago when warden Burl Cain discovered that many of the poorer inmates were being buried in cardboard boxes.
The warden had the inmates construct simple plywood coffins for themselves and others who could not afford to purchase them. In addition to making the caskets, the prisoners, many of them former hardened criminals who are now committed Christians, also pray over them.
Franklin was struck by the simple and natural beauty of these caskets and requested that the prisoners design and build two of them for his parents. Mr. and Mrs. Graham’s coffins were built by inmate Richard “Grasshopper” Liggett, with the help of others, whose names are burned into the wood.
The coffins are made of plywood and lined with a mattress pad. The Grahams requested no special upgrades to the caskets, which cost around $200 to make. They were modified slightly for easier transport to multiple locations.
Upon his death, Mr. Graham will be buried in his own matching casket and laid to rest next to his wife at the foot of the cross-shaped walkway in the Prayer Garden at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte.
Following Franklin’s visit to the prison, a chapel at Angola was dedicated in Mr. Graham’s honor in 2006.