- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 22, 2009

TULSA, Okla. (AP) | For decades, Oral Roberts deftly used television to become one of the nation’s most recognized and influential preachers. On Monday, that same medium was used to broadcast the memorial service for the godfather of TV evangelism to tens of millions of homes across the world.

At Mr. Roberts’ namesake university in southern Tulsa, about 4,000 people packed a campus arena to pay final tribute to the charismatic leader who rose from poverty and humble tent revivals to build a multimillion-dollar ministry so enormous that it had its own ZIP code. Some of the 4,000 waited hours in their cars for the doors to open.

Mr. Roberts died last week of complications from pneumonia in Newport Beach, Calif. He was 91.

“You sent us a man who we know and loved, and who walked with God and never gave up the common touch,” fellow TV evangelist the Rev. Pat Robertson said during the ceremony’s opening prayer. “I know you broke the mold with Oral.”

The event was part spectacle, carried live by the Inspiration Network and its international counterpart, which can reach about 140 million homes.

The guest list was a who’s who of TV evangelists - most of whom tie their success to Mr. Roberts - and some arrived in the six stretch limousines, two Jaguars, Cadillacs and a Mercedes Benz parked curbside.

Illustrating Mr. Roberts’ wide reach and appeal, mourners came from all backgrounds: from young people in tattered jeans and a man dressed in a camouflage hunting jacket to a young woman carrying a $5,000 Marc Jacobs handbag. Along with television evangelists, dignitaries included Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett and University of Kansas basketball coach Bill Self.

Mr. Self summed up his former boss before the service began: “tough in nature, real and certainly one of the most charismatic men I have met.”

The service included video tributes and condolences from preachers and politicians; pictures of Mr. Roberts talking to Larry King, Jerry Lewis and President Richard Nixon; and a video message from former Oklahoma State University basketball coach Eddie Sutton, who recalled the time when his house burned down and Mr. Roberts showed up with an entire wardrobe to replace what had been lost.

Oral Roberts University President Mark Rutland noted how adept Mr. Roberts was at using television to spread his message. “There was something when Oral leaned into that TV and said, ‘Something good is going to happen to you today,’ ” he said.

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