May 15, 2007
The Reverend Jerry Falwell is dead. Now family, friends, and fellow believers are mourning their loss.
Rev. Falwell was found unconscious in his office at Liberty University this morning.
Falwell was a well known televangelist, spiritual leader, and political player who didn't separate church and state.
News 12 took a look back at his career in the political realm.
I grew up near Lynchburg, Virginia, and I can remember Rev. Falwell being very involved in local and state elections and politics. Falwell not only made a political impact not only in the small city of Lynchburg but across the US.
Separating church and state was not an option for Rev. Falwell. He prided himself on being a pillar in the pulpit and an active member in the political arena. His religious and political involvement spanned more than 50 years.
Falwell supported like-minded conservative candidates and pushed for right-wing issues. He had many supporters on Capitol Hill.
"He's certainly been a prominent figure in American religion and politics for the last 20 years," said Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. "And I know he'll be greatly, greatly missed."
"I extend my condolences to his family and his parishioners and those people around the country who care so much about him," said Democratic Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada.
Falwell has had health concerns for some time now. In early 2005, he was hospitalized for two weeks with a viral infection, discharged, and then hospitalized again on May 30, 2005 in respiratory arrest. President George W. Bush contacted Falwell to wish him well then.
Now, two years later, almost to the exact date, the White House issued this statement on Falwell's death:
"This is the kind of thing that's going to be a shock to those who love him and were around him, and I think the proper attitude at this juncture is to pass on condolences and prayers," said White House press secretary Tony Snow.
While many across the country will remember Falwell for his political views and works, Falwell's Thomas Road Baptist Church congregation will reflect on the man they say wholeheartedly fulfilled his duties as pastor, mentor, leader and man of God.
"He was everything that he should have been," one parishioner said. "People may have disagreed with him on a whole lot of issues, but he was for real. He was the real McCoy."
"There wasn't a phony bone in his body," said another. "He lived, he preached, he practiced everything the same. He was a friend to his friends and he was a friend to his enemies."
"My wife and her sister and my brother, we are all students there at Liberty, and they called me crying," another said. "Dr. Falwell has done a lot for our family. Because of him we were able to come to this school. He's a very personal person, helped us financially, it's everything you'd want in a president of a university."
"It probably won't hit me fully until a few weeks from now, because I am in a bit of shock that my friend, my mentor, my pastor--and he's always been my pastor through all these years--has gone," said another. "And I won't see him again. And I won't get hit by him again. And I won't get to talk with him and share his wisdom. I'm going to miss all of that."
As they prepared to debate this evening, Republican presidential candidates responded to the death of Falwell.
John McCain praised Falwell, calling him "a man of distinguished accomplishment who devoted his life to serving his faith and country." McCain was the commencement speaker last year at Falwell's Liberty University after making peace with Falwell.
Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue issued this statement:
"Mary and I join the American people in mourning the passing of Reverend Jerry Falwell. He built Christian elementary schools, homes for unwed mothers and a home for the treatment of alcoholism.
"It was apparent to me in meeting with Reverend Falwell last October that the three most important things in his life were Christ, his family and his students.
"He never shied away from speaking his mind or fighting for what he thought was right, and he firmly believed that people of faith had a role to play in politics."