OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Evangelist Oral Roberts told the Oklahoma Senate on Thursday his legacy is intact, thanks to more than $70 million in donations from Oklahoma City businessman Mark Green and his family to Oral Roberts University in Tulsa.
Senators adopted a resolution honoring the life of the 91-year-old Roberts, who spoke to state lawmakers for the first time in 27 years.
"I'm almost overwhelmed at this great honor," said Roberts, who entered the Senate chamber on a walker but stood with microphone in hand as he talked without a script about his life as
a charismatic preacher.
Roberts came to prominence in the 1950s with tent rivals across the country and overseas, during which thousands of people would line up for healing services. He was a pioneer television evangelist and wrote more than 100 books, including his biography, "Expect a Miracle."
"I've laid hand on more than 1.5 million people, individually, for their healing. Some have been healed; some have not. But I marked a path for other ministries."
Roberts said he was inspired to become a preacher as a teenager after he was near death with tuberculosis in 1935 and "a man of God prayed for me and God healed lungs and my stuttering tongue and set me free from that bondage."
He said he leaves a legacy of "a whole person university" that educates the mind and the spirit and stresses physical activity to take care of the body, with required courses in aerobic exercise.
Roberts was succeeded as president of ORU by his son, Richard Roberts, who stepped down in 2007 after a financial scandal and allegations Roberts and his wife, Lindsay, spent money on home remodels, lavish vacations and other items at a time the university was heavily in debt.
Oral Roberts told the Senate his son "did a good job, but we got into debt."
Now, he said, the university has rebounded financially, largely because of the Green family.
"I am grateful to the Green family, the father, David, and Mark Green, his son. I could not ask for a greater legacy than knowing that great leaders have come back to take over the university," Roberts said.
Mark Green is chairman of the board of trustees of ORU. David Green founded the huge Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores.
Roberts, who retired in California when he was 75, said he always feels at home when he returns to Oklahoma and feels welcome at ORU. "I pick up the spirit of the people and I always know I'm an Oklahoman," he said.
Roberts founded Oral Roberts University in 1963. It now has more than 3,000 students from 61 countries.
"I'm 91 years of age and I'll soon be going home to my heavenly Father," Roberts said. "I look forward to that with great peace and joy, leaving behind my legacy to bless the people. God bless you for this honor."
Sen. Dan Newberry, R-Tulsa, sponsored the resolution adopted by the Senate honoring Roberts.
"As Oklahomans, I think most of us are familiar with Oral Roberts, his ministry, and the university he founded in Tulsa, but I don't know if most people realize how much influence he's had around the world," Newberry said.