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Oral Roberts

Matt Schudel

Oral Roberts, who died Dec. 15 at age 91, was one of the most important religious figures in American history.

As one of the first television evangelists, he practically invented the medium and was, for years, the most popular evangelist on the airwaves. He professed to have healing powers -- or, more precisely, to be the vessel through whom God healed the sick -- and this dramatic video from 1955 shows Mr. Roberts in full revival form:

Oral Roberts was certainly skilled at stirring up his audiences, and he also kept a keen eye on the collection plate. He made millions of dollars from his followers, who sent him checks after hearing his televised pleas.

Of course, Mr. Roberts was often derided as a greedy old fraud, and a fuddy duddy out of step with modern time -- there are some surprisingly explicit recordings of him talking about homosexuality that can be taken as warnings from on high or as camp humor, depending on your point of view. But there's no denying that he had a lot of influence on the lives of millions of people. In this video from 2009, the 91-year-old Mr. Roberts discusses his life and career.

By Matt Schudel  |  December 16, 2009; 12:58 PM ET
Categories:  Matt Schudel  
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Posted by: MikeLicht | December 16, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

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