TV Minister Rex Humbard Dies at 88

Pioneering TV minister Rex Humbard, who started what he called an electronic church that eventually played host to millions of parishioners across the world, died Friday at a hospital near his home in Lantana, Fla. He was 88.

Humbard, whose son, Charles, is cofounder of Gospel Music Channel, started on TV in 1948 in Indianapolis and eventually was broadcasting a weekly program carried on hundreds of stations in the United States and Canada, as well as internationally.

Born Aug. 13, 1919, in Little Rock, Ark., Rex Humbard began his broadcasting career on KTHS (AM) in Hot Springs, Ark., at age 13, singing gospel and encouraging listeners to come to his father's church. He later had a radio show on the Mutual and NBC radio networks.

"Then in 1952, he was struck by the power of television while jostling in a crowd to watch a Cleveland Indians game through the window of an Akron, Ohio, department-store window," late B&C reporter John Higgins once wrote in a profile of Charles Humbard. "[Rex Humbard] started a ministry in an old movie theater the following year and bought time on TV stations to carry his sermons.”

Higgins continued, "In 1958, the minister built a giant, 5,000-seat church -- named the Cathedral of Tomorrow -- plus an adjacent broadcast facility to produce shows and ship tapes around the world. Humbard’s outfit had all the trademarks of TV evangelists: a folksy storytelling preaching style with plenty of fund-raising and even a financial scandal or two. At its peak, the Humbard operation leased time on 650 TV stations and claimed to have 20 million viewers around the world."

Survivors include his wife of 65 years, Maude Aimee; sons Rex Jr. and Charles; and daughter Liz.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.