TULSA, Okla. -- Evangelist and fervent anti-communist Billy James Hargis, who once conceived a plan to float Bible verses behind the Iron Curtain in balloons, has died.
Hargis died Saturday in Tulsa. He was 79.
Hargis, who founded the Christian Crusade, was born Aug. 3, 1925. After graduating from Texarkana High School, he attended Ozark Bible College in Bentonville, Ark.
Hargis had wanted to be a preacher since childhood, and as a teenager, he became committed to fighting the spread of communism.
At age 17, he was ordained in the Disciples of Christ denomination, and his first large congregation was at the First Christian Church in Sapulpa, Okla.
He also pastored churches in Oklahoma and in Granby, Mo. In 1950, he founded the interdenominational Christian Crusade, with the message, "for Christ and against communism."
During the 1950s and 1960s, Hargis became known worldwide for his crusade, his long-running fight with the Internal Revenue Service and his friendships and meetings with heads of state.
Hargis' broadcast ministry spanned some 40 years on more than 500 radio stations and 250 television stations in America and throughout the world.
He continued to work until earlier this year, when his son, Billy James Hargis II, stepped in to lead the ministry.