Herbert W. Armstrong (1892-1986)
Minister, publisher, educator, broadcaster, humanitarian, “unofficial ambassador for world peace,” Herbert W. Armstrong was an acquaintance and friend of leaders from around the world.
Born in 1892, Mr. Armstrong experienced the advent of the industrial age, the transportation age, the nuclear age, the space age and the information age. He witnessed two world wars and revolutions in culture, economics, warfare and society.
Called into God’s service and away from a promising career in advertising, quite against his will, Mr. Armstrong endured years of poverty and the smallest of beginnings for what would become a gigantic worldwide work. Founded on Jesus' teaching, "It is more blessed to give than to receive," millions joined his 50-year crusade to communicate God’s message and way of life to every corner of the globe. He became a pioneer and then the world’s leader in televangelism and one of the most prominent religious leaders of the 20th century.
Mr. Armstrong established the Radio Church of God in 1934. By 1968 it had gone global and was renamed the Worldwide Church of God. When he died in 1986, Mr. Armstrong left behind a church with 725 congregations in 57 countries with a weekly worldwide attendance of 120,000 and 1,200 ministers. The World Tomorrow television program could be viewed on 382 stations and 36 radio outlets around the world.
Herbert Armstrong established Ambassador College in 1947 in Pasadena, Calif., and later founded two more campuses in Big Sandy, Texas, and Bricket Wood, England. Thousands of students were educated in the way of give at this unique liberal arts institution. (It survives today as Herbert W. Armstrong College in Edmond, Okla.)
The church’s flagship magazine, the Plain Truth, was distributed free of charge without subscription price or advertising revenue. It was published in seven languages with a worldwide circulation of 8.4 million. The church’s Good News Christian-living magazine had a circulation of 828,000. Added together, these two magazines exceeded the circulations of Time and Newsweek combined.
More than 40 million books or booklets were distributed free of charge over the course of Mr. Armstrong’s 50-year ministry, the most-requested of which was The United States and Britain in Prophecy, at 6 million. Between 1980 and 1985, the church distributed 447.5 million books, booklets, magazines, newspapers, lessons and letters.
In the latter part of his life, Mr. Armstrong met with heads of state and other high officials around the world. In his personal audiences with kings, princes, presidents, prime ministers, emperors and other leaders of government, society and business, he became known as an “ambassador without portfolio for world peace.”
Mr. Armstrong founded the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation in 1972. Its performing arts series was hosted in the Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena, California.The auditorium, known as the “Carnegie Hall of the West Coast,” hosted greats such as Luciano Pavarotti, Vladimir Horowitz, Joan Sutherland, the Vienna Philharmonic and other musical legends. Beyond Pasadena, the foundation's humanitarian activities stretched from Bombay to Brussels, Tokyo to Cairo, Jerusalem to London, and beyond.
United States President Ronald Reagan summed up the sentiments of church members, supporters and world dignitaries alike upon the news of his death in January 1986: “Mr. Armstrong contributed to sharing the word of the Lord with his community and with people throughout the nation,” he said. “You can take pride in his legacy."