Pioneering televangelist Oral Roberts has died after suffering a fall near his Newport Beach, Calif., home. He was 91.
The charismatic minister led a healing evangelism movement in the 1940s and '50s and — like Billy Graham — pioneered radio and television ministry, making his a household name to Americans.
He founded the university that bears his name and the Tulsa, Okla.-based evangelistic association now headed by his son, Richard Roberts.
His son and daughter, Roberta, sent out a release about his death, saying they were at his side when he died.
"Oral Roberts was the greatest man of God I've ever known," Richard Roberts told Tulsa TV station KTUL. "A modern-day apostle of the healing ministry, an author, educator, evangelist, prophet, and innovator, he was the only man of his generation to build a worldwide ministry, an accredited university, and a medical school."
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In the late 1960s, Roberts started quarterly prime-time TV specials; eventually, he got a weekly show. By 1975, his program had a weekly audience of nearly 4 million and was carried on 350 stations in the United States and Canada.
At one time, according to the Tulsa World, it was rated the No. 1 syndicated Sunday morning religious program. The quarterly specials were aired on more than 525 stations, including in every state, in Canada, and in several other foreign countries.
These specials often drew nearly 64 million people, according to the ratings.
In his evangelistic efforts, Roberts developed a few trademark phrases, including "Something good is going to happen to you!" "God is a good God" and "Expect a miracle."
Though his enthusiasm won him many faithful followers, his more eye-opening exploits also led to skepticism of his and other televangelists' ministries. He announced on television early in 1987 that if he did not raise $8 million for medical students' scholarships so they could become missionaries, he would die by the end of March.
After the announcement, some TV stations refused to air the broadcasts. Roberts received the money, including $1.3 million from a dog track owner in Florida, before the March 31 deadline.
Time magazine once quoted him as saying: "I've had to stop a sermon, go back and raise a dead person." He provided no details, however, and later hedged when a doctor from his own university's medical school later asked about the claim, according to Time.