Hundreds gathered on Saturday at Ernest Angley's Grace Cathedral in Akron, Ohio, to remember the late Rev. Rex Humbard, widely considered the pioneer of televangelism.
"Rex was focused on one thing: to tell people they need to be saved," said Wayne Jones, Humbard's brother-in-law, according to The Associated Press.
Humbard died Sept. 21 of natural causes at the age of 88 at a South Florida hospital near his home. His body lay in state Saturday at the former Cathedral of Tomorrow in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, a suburb of nearby Akron, where he broadcast Sunday services to millions of people worldwide. "A Home Going Celebration" was held at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens in Akron Sunday afternoon.
"I grew up in this church. My parents came to Christ through Rex's ministry," said Elizabeth Bandy of Akron, according to The Akron Beacon Journal. "His legacy is so touching. He's made such a difference in this community and his ministry worldwide is so overwhelming. When I look around and see the faces of all these people who came to say goodbye, I realize the one common thread is Rex's ministry."
The son of Pentecostal evangelists, Humbard hit the television airwaves in 1949 when the visual medium was largely untapped by evangelists. In 1952, weekly Sunday messages began broadcasting from his nondenominational $4-million domed Cathedral of Tomorrow, a renovated theater that seated 5,400 people.
By 1970, his syndicated program appeared on more TV stations in America than any other with a weekly average of 8 million viewers at the show's peak. By 1979, Humbard drew global audiences with the show broadcasting in Canada, Europe, the Middle East, Far East, Australia and Latin America.
Financial overreaching, however, eroded the ministry and Humbard moved to south Florida in 1982, hoping to expand its worldwide ministry into Latin America. In 1994, he sold the Cathedral of Tomorrow to fellow televangelist the Rev. Ernest Angley. Still, Humbard continued speaking to live audiences and his ministry continued to sell his tapes and books.
Humbard's four children – Rex Jr., Don, Aimee Elizabeth (Darling) and Charles – decided to hold public services for their father, considering the people who have been touched by their father's ministry, according to the local newspaper.
"He was more than a preacher,'' Don Humbard, treasurer of the Rex Humbard Ministry Inc., said. "He was a spiritual father, not just to us and his grandkids, but to many people in this community, around the country and around the world. They are family."
A private burial was planned for Monday at Rose Hill Burial Park.
In addition to his children, Humbard is survived by his wife of 65 years, Maude Aimee, 10 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.