AKRON - The Rev. Rex Humbard was remembered yesterday at a memorial service for a ministry that grew from revival tents to the new medium of television, a pioneer who reached a worldwide audience larger than any evangelist in the 1970s.
About 550 people gathered for Mr. Humbard's "Home Going Celebration" at Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens, just a few miles from the Cathedral of Tomorrow, a 5,000-seat nondenominational where he broadcast Sunday services.
"Rex was focused on one thing: to tell people they need to be saved," said Mr. Humbard's brother-in-law Wayne Jones, who worked in the televangelist's ministry.
Mr. Humbard, 88, died Sept. 21 at a South Florida hospital.
The memorial service was held outdoors under a large white tent, a fitting setting for the former itinerant preacher.
After a decade preaching on the road, Mr. Humbard settled in Akron in 1952, the same year he saw one of the first television programs broadcast live in northeast Ohio.
The son of Pentecostal evangelists, Mr. Humbard saw the power of television, Mr. Jones said, recalling how Mr. Humbard visited a TV station manager a dozen times - refusing to give up on his vision - before he agreed to put him on the air.
Mr. Humbard began with a renovated theater in 1953 and later the $4 million domed Cathedral of Tomorrow.
The broadcast, also called Cathedral of Tomorrow, developed into a mixture of preaching and music, with Humbard's wife, Maude Aimee, an accomplished gospel singer, and the Cathedral Quartet as regular performers. The Humbards' children also performed.
By 1979, the show was broadcast in the United States, Canada, Europe, the Middle East, Far East, Australia, and Latin America. His syndicated program appeared on more TV stations in America than any other program by 1970.
The preacher's rose-covered casket was carried in to a bagpiper playing "Amazing Grace," and televangelist Benny Hinn led the funeral service.
Richard Roberts, son of preacher Oral Roberts, spoke and thanked the Humbard family for what they've meant to his family. A letter from Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition, was read. He noted that Mr. Humbard, at the height of his popularity, was "America's preacher."
Elizabeth Humbard spoke of her father's love for his family and recalled as a child sitting in his office in her pajamas on Saturday evenings as he prepared his sermon for the next day.
Burial was planned for today at Rose Hill Burial Park in Akron.