The founder and chairman of The Christian Broadcasting Network and host of “The 700 Club,” Pat Robertson, has died.
He was 93 years old.
Robertson was born Marion Gordon Robertson in Lexington, Virginia, on March 22, 1930. He was called Pat by his older brother and kept that name throughout his life.
His father was a lawmaker, who served 34 years in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.
Robertson is said to have been a descendant of Declaration of Independence signer, and Virginia Governor Benjamin Harrison; his grandson, also named Benjamin Harrison, who served as president; President William Henry Harrison and Winston Churchill, according to Robertson’s official CBN biography.
Robertson attended military prep school at the McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and studied at Washington and Lee University. He also enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve, where he eventually served as the assistant adjutant of the First Marine Division in combat in Korea in 1950. He was promoted to first lieutenant in 1952. After his return to the U.S., he received a Juris Doctor degree from Yale University Law School in 1955 and a master of divinity degree from New York Theological Seminary in 1959.
In 1959, Robertson his wife Dede and their children went to southern Virginia with the hopes of buying a bankrupt UHF television station in the area. He is said to have had only $70 in his pocket but was able to raise the money needed to buy the station, forming CBN in January 1960, with its first broadcast happening on Oct. 1, 1961.
CNN reported it was the first Christian television network in the country.
For more than 50 years, Robertson was the host of “The 700 Club” bringing religion through televisions to the living rooms of millions of faithful. He also preached about God’s judgment on the country blaming it on everything from homosexually to the teaching of evolution, the AP reported.
The name of the show was inspired by the 700 people who donated $10 a month to CBN, The New York Times reported.
CBN said that “The 700 Club” is one of the longest-running programs in television history.
Robertson, who called himself a “newsman” at heart, interviewed military and political leaders such as Yitzhak Rabin and then-Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter, who won his race for president with the support of evangelical Christians, according to CBN. Robertson was also credited with getting Ronald Reagan elected.
He used his fame to launch his own GOP presidential campaign 1988, saying that he would only run if he had gathered three million signatures on petitions.
“He asked people to pledge that they’d work for him, pray for him and give him money,” biographer Jeffrey Hadden told the AP in 1988. “Political historians may view it as one of the most ingenious things a candidate ever did.”
Robertson finished second in Iowa, ahead of Vice President George H.W. Bush, who eventually won the presidency. Robertson endorsed Bush in the campaign.
The next year, Robertson launched the Christian Coalition to further his campaign’s ideals, and in the 1990s used grass-roots efforts to mobilize conservative voters, the AP reported.
Roberton resigned from the presidency of the Christian Coalition in 2001 to focus on his ministerial work.
Robertson was injured in a horseback riding accident in 2017. He also suffered a stroke in 2018 but only 10 days after the medical emergency he appeared once again on “The 700 Club.”
He stepped down as the show’s daily host in October 2021 during the celebration of the program’s 60th anniversary but continued to appear on the broadcast frequently.
Robertson’s wife passed away in April 2022. He leaves behind four children, 14 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren, CBN said.
Local televangelist Jim Bakker shared a statement with Channel 9 about Robertson's passing.
"My heart is broken on hearing of the passing of my dear friend and mentor Pat Robertson," it reads. "He is truly the father of Christian television, who I had the privilege of working with for eight years. His voice and wisdom will be greatly missed in these difficult times on earth. He leaves a great legacy of being the first Christian television broadcaster to bring the charismatic message to the world. Among his achievements is the founding of Regent University. His spirit-filled voice and wisdom will be missed by millions of people. I know for sure, he is in heaven with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and millions of souls that he has won for the Lord!"
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