By Lisa Anderson
Tribune National Correspondent
Published May 15, 2007, 1:02 PM CDT
NEW YORK — Influential conservative televangelist and Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell died at a Lynchburg, Virginia hospital early this afternoon after being found unconscious in his office at nearby Liberty University.He was 73.
Falwell had “a history of heart challenges,” according to Ron Godwin, the university’s executive vice president. “I had breakfast with him, and he was fine at breakfast,” Goodwin told the Associated Press. “He went to his office. I went to mine, and they found him unresponsive.
“Falwell was found unconscious and unresponsive in his office, located in a stone cottage on the campus grounds, at about 10:45 a.m, said Goodwin.Falwell’s death came just days before Liberty University will graduate its first law school class on May 19.
Born and bred in Lynchburg, Falwell came back after college to found the Thomas Road Baptist Church in 1956. That church currently has 24,000 members.The church is on the same property with Falwell’s education complex that includes schools from pre-K through PhD programs.The law school was the most recent addition, opening in the fall of 2004.
In an interview at his Liberty University office on May 1, Falwell spoke to the Tribune about his dream.”More than 40 years ago, I had already been pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church here in Lynchburg for 10 or 11 years and I began building a dream. The dream was a Christian institution of education providing preschool, kindergarten, elementary, high school, liberal arts university, graduate schools, seminary, law school, engineering school, medical school. Well, the engineering starts this fall and the medical is five years down the road,” he said proudly.
“We bought 5000 acres of land over the years. It’s called Liberty Mountain,” he said.
Falwell is survived by his wife of nearly 50 years, three grown children and eight grandchildren.
Jonathan Falwell, one of his two sons, is the executive pastor of the Thomas Road Baptist Church.