Broadcast pioneer and televangelist Rex Humbard died Sept. 21 of natural causes. He was 88. Noted as one of America's first television evangelist, Humbard began broadcasting his TV show, Cathedral of Tomorrow, to millions in the 1950s from his Ohio-based, 5,400-seat church of the same name.
“He was the ultimate role model in showing love and caring for other people over and above himself,” said his grandson Rex Humbard III. The show aired for three decades on 360 stations across North America and in 91 languages on more than 2,000 stations worldwide.
“The vast majority of people do not go to church and the only way we can reach them is through the TV,” Humbard wrote in his autobiography, Miracles in My Life.
Regularly watching Humbard from hotels on Sundays, the legendary Elvis Presley reportedly called the televangelist “his preacher,” and upon his death in 1977 Presley’s father requested Humbard officiate the service, according to Humbard’s official website.
Secular media has recognized Humbard—who at 13 began his broadcast career by singing gospel songs at a local radio station in Arkansas and inviting listeners to his father’s church—as an extremely influential televangelist.
“Today, Rex Humbard has come closer than any other human being in history ... to preaching the gospel in all of the world ... more than any other evangelist, he has taken up the challenge,” TIME magazine reported in 1999. U.S. News & World Report named him one of the “Top 25 Principle Architects of the American Century.”
Humbard is survived by his wife of 65 years, Maude Aimee; sons, Rex Jr., Don and Charles; daughter, Liz Darling; and 21 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Funeral services will be held in Akron, Ohio, at 3 p.m. ET on Sept. 30.