Paul Crouch, a pioneering televangelist and founder of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, died Saturday. He was 79 and had been in failing health.
TBN has endured since its founding in 1973 and remains one of the world’s most widely distributed Christian television networks with an expansive lineup of programs and personalities. It also has offshoots in Latin America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
According to TBN, Crouch got his start in broadcasting after helping to build a radio station while a student at Central Bible Institute and Seminary in Springfield, Mo. He became a radio announcer in Rapid City, S.D. in the late 1950s and served as g.m. of the city’s NBC affiliate station, KRSD-TV.
By the early 1960s, Crouch relocated to Burbank, Calif., to run the film and TV production department of the Assemblies of God, where he produced a range of film and TV projects. He managed several other religious radio and TV outlets in Southern California before founding TBN with his wife, Jan. The pair became prominent figures in the evangelical community as hosts of the nightly talkshow “Praise the Lord.”
TBN ranks as one of the nation’s largest TV station groups with 29 full power stations reaching 41% of U.S. TV households.
Crouch largely avoided the sex scandals that took down fellow TV preachers Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart in the 1980s. But in 2004 the church was rocked by allegations of sexual improprieties leveled against Crouch by a former employee.
More recently, the question of succession at TBN made headlines for the Tustin, Calif.-based ministry amid a falling out between Crouch and his son, Paul Crouch Jr. TBN has also faced a legal battle with granddaughter Brittany Koper, who has accused the TBN founders of engaging in lavish spending at the expense of TBN donors.