Jerry Falwell, the conservative preacher whose television ministry helped fuel the rise of the Religious Right, died Tuesday, May 15, after being found unresponsive in his office at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. He was 73.
Ron Godwin, an executive vice president at the university, said Falwell was transported to Lynchburg General Hospital and pronounced dead at 12:40 p.m. "He has had a history of heart problems," Godwin said in a news conference.
Dr. Carl Moore, a cardiovascular specialist, said Falwell was found "unconscious without a heartbeat" about 11:30 a.m. Efforts to resuscitate him in his office, in an ambulance, and at the hospital were unsuccessful.
Moore said Falwell had a cardiac arrhythmiaan irregularity in the heart's rhythmthat occurs "without warning and cannot be predicted."
Evangelist Billy Graham, in a statement, called Falwell "a close personal friend for many years. We did not always agree on everything, but I knew him to be a man of God."
For many, Falwell represented the public face of evangelical Protestantism, particularly its involvement in politics. Falwell founded the Moral Majority in 1979 to lobby politicians to "reverse the politicization of immorality in our society," he said at the time.
By then, Falwell had already been a radio and television preacher for 20 years. He rode a politically conservative wave and used his television ministry as a platform to advance conservative causes, including voluntary prayer in public schools, opposition to abortion, and military strength.
"When most people think of the Christian Right, they think of the Moral Majority," said John Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. The Moral Majority was "an opportunity to ...