Oral Roberts, a legendary evangelist who rose from humble beginnings to become one of the most influential Christian leaders of the 20th century, died today in Newport Beach, California due to complications from pneumonia. His son, Richard, and daughter, Roberta, were at his side. The founder of Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association and Oral Roberts University was 91.
There will be a private family internment. Arrangements for a public memorial service in Tulsa are pending and will be announced soon.
“Oral Roberts was the greatest man of God I’ve ever known,” Richard Roberts said. “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.
“Beloved husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, he was not only my earthly father; he was my spiritual father and mentor. The last member of his generation in the Roberts family, he had a passion to bring healing to the sick."
Granville Oral Roberts was born into poverty in Bebee, Oklahoma on January 24, 1918. He began stuttering as a young child and then, as a teenager, contracted a potentially deadly case of tuberculosis. Bed fast at 17, he was carried to a revival meeting by his older brother, where a healing evangelist was praying for the sick.
He later would tell the story, that, on the way, he clearly heard God speak to him, saying, “Son, I am going to heal you, and you are to take my healing power to your generation.”
Roberts said he was miraculously healed of tuberculosis and stuttering at the revival meeting. His healing ministry was born several years later.
Roberts was a legendary and beloved figure in a segment of Christianity that emphasizes healing and speaking in tongues. In addition to the church and university he founded, he was an early televangelist taking to the airwaves in 1955 attracting a vast viewership.
His life was not without controversy. The biggest of which took place in 1987, when Time Magazine reported that Richard Roberts claimed he had seen his fther raise a child from the dead. The story became the inspiration for a comic strip that satirized the elder Roberts. Whether an effect or coincidentally, income decreased soon after the article appeared.
In 1947, he founded Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association and began conducting crusades across America and around the world, attracting crowds of thousands — many who were sick and dying and in search of healing. Through the years, he conducted more than 300 crusades on six continents. OREA officials estimate that he personally laid hands in prayer on more than 2 million people. The ministry continues under the leadership of Richard.
In 1981, Roberts founded the City of Faith Medical and Research Center which closed after eight years.
Roberts wrote more than 130 books.