Oral Roberts, Evangelist, Dies at 91


The cause was complications of pneumonia, said Melany Ethridge, a spokeswoman for Mr. Roberts.

At the height of his influence, Mr. Roberts sat at the head of a religious, educational and communications enterprise based in Tulsa, Okla., that managed a university, conducted healing “crusades” on five continents, preached the gospel on prime-time national television and published dozens of books and magazines.

By 1985, the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association and the university that bore his name employed more than 2,300 people and earned $110 million in revenue. The exp
anse of Mr. Roberts’s ministry, coupled with his fiery preaching, tycoonlike vision and jet-set lifestyle, also attracted persistent questions throughout his career about his theology and his unorthodox fund-raising techniques, although no credible evidence of malfeasance was ever produced. Some of the harshest criticism was generated by former members of his staff.

Mr. Roberts, who rose from stifling poverty and a nearly fatal case of tuberculosis as a teenager, rarely fought back in public. He was convinced, he said, that God had spoken to him directly as a young man and ordered him on the path, pursued with uncommon entrepreneurial energy, to “put Jesus into my focus at the center of all my thoughts, my dreams, my plans, my accomplishments, my destiny and any legacy I might leave behind.”


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