Alpha Rex Emmanuel Humbard (1919–2007)
Alpha Rex Emmanuel Humbard was a traveling evangelist from Arkansas who became a well-known gospel singer, pastor, and pioneer in Christian television.
Born on August 13, 1919, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), Rex Humbard was one of six children of Pentecostal evangelists Alpha and Martha (Childers) Humbard. In the summer of 1932, young Humbard watched a Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus tent fill with crowds in Hot Springs (Garland County). Although he would not attend such “worldly” diversions, he decided that he wanted to attract crowds like that to share the gospel. At age thirteen, he began broadcasting on KTHS radio in Hot Springs by singing gospel songs and inviting listeners to come hear his father preach at the local church. In the early 1940s, he began a daily radio program carried nationwide on Mutual Network and the NBC Blue Network.
From Arkansas, Humbard moved with his family to Dallas, Texas, where his father was invited to become the associate pastor under Albert Ott at Bethel Temple Assembly of God. While assisting his father at this church, Humbard became acquainted with Maude Aimee Jones, one of the church members, and they were married on August 2, 1942, in the Cadle Tabernacle in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana, where Rex and his family were holding four weeks of evangelistic meetings. The couple had four children.
Humbard and his family traveled together as evangelists for the next ten years. Following a successful meeting in Akron, Ohio, in 1952, Humbard left the family ministry in order to pastor a local nondenominational church called Calvary Temple. He immediately began hosting a regular weekly television broadcast.
After his church outgrew the original building, he completed in 1958 a $2.1 million facility in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, a suburb of Akron, which he named the Cathedral of Tomorrow. The new building accommodated television equipment, a crew, a choir, and seating for 5,400 people. It became one of the largest churches in the nation. There, he hosted meetings with Kathryn Kuhlman as well as many other noted evangelists.
By the 1970s, a large network of between 1,500 to 1,600 stations worldwide in ninety-one languages carried his Sunday morning services. His simple storytelling style, combined with gospel music, appealed to a large audience. Regular musical guests on Humbard’s program, the Cathedral of Tomorrow show, included Mahalia Jackson, Bill Gaither, Andrae Crouch, Pat and Debby Boone, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Johnny and June Cash, the Blackwood Brothers, the Statesmen Quartet, and the Cathedrals. One of Humbard’s loyal viewers was Elvis Presley, who regularly watched “his preacher” each Sunday morning. Elvis Presley’s father, Vernon, asked Humbard to preach at his son’s funeral in 1977.
Humbard’s television program continued for thirty years, with the last program airing in 1982. The next year, Humbard moved his family ministry to Boca Raton, Florida, becoming pastor emeritus of the church. He continued to preach for a while, but Humbard gave up his weekend on-air preaching in the 1990s and sold the Cathedral of Tomorrow to televangelist Ernest Angley in 1994.
In April 2007, Humbard returned to Hot Springs to be inducted into the Arkansas Walk of Fame, where he was honored for his many years of television evangelism. He died in Atlantis, Florida, on September 21, 2007.
For additional information:
Humbard, Rex. Miracles in My Life: Rex Humbard’s Own Story. Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1971.
———. The Soul-Winning Century: The Humbard Legacy…One Hundred Years of Ministry. Dallas, TX: Clarion Call Marketing, 2006.
Humbard, Rex, as told to Joyce Parks. Put God on Main Street: An Autobiography. Akron, OH: The Cathedral of Tomorrow, 1970.
“Hundreds Pay Respects to Televangelist: Son Says Rex Humbard was ‘Spiritual Father’ to Many Christians around the World.” Akron Beacon Journal. September 30, 2007, p. 1A.
Lockwood, Frank. “Humbard, Preacher of ‘Simple Gospel,’ Dies at 88.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. September 23, 2007, p. 2A.
“Rex Humbard, 88; Pioneer Televangelist with a Global Reach.” Los Angeles Times. September 23, 2007, p. 12B.
Glenn W. Gohr
While Rex Humbard did speak at Elvis’s funeral, he did not deliver the main eulogy. That honor went to C.W. Bradley, a long-time Church of Christ minister in Memphis, TN. I knew Bradley personally, and he told me exactly what transpired and, according to Bradley, Humbard was the one who did the asking, not Vernon. Both Vernon and especially his wife, Dee, attended the Wooddale Church of Christ in Memphis.
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