There was a time when everyone knew his name.
The Rev. Leroy Jenkins was famous in Delaware, where he started the Healing Water Cathedral in the 1970s.
A televangelist and faith healer, Jenkins, 83, died June 21 in Florida from complications of pneumonia, said his son, Danny Jenkins.
He always had a big presence and loved being around people, Danny Jenkins said.
“He looked like Elvis, dressed like Liberace, ran for governor and said he had God-given powers,” said Lee Yoakum, spokesman for the city of Delaware, in an email. “Someone like that is going to leave a pretty colorful history – in any town – not just Delaware.”
Jenkins would call strangers up to the stage from the audience and tell them all about themselves, then he would touch them and heal them if they were sick, said the Rev. Bob Frary, 73, Jenkins’ assistant pastor for more than 40 years and a preacher in Grove City.
Jenkins was one of the area’s first televangelists. At one point, he claimed to be on at least 34 television stations. Jenkins later switched to radio.
“His ministry was based on doing something most pastors wish they could do,” Frary said. “He didn’t have a fake gift like some of these other crooks. He had the real thing.”
Jenkins left Delaware for Arizona in the early 2000s, though he came back a few times to preach at the Ohio Theatre.
Jenkins had legal troubles and served time in prison on charges of conspiracy to commit arson and assault. He also filed for bankruptcy, was indicted for tax evasion and was accused of selling contaminated “miracle water.”
In May 2014, the building in Delaware that housed his chapel was condemned and demolished. It’s currently vacant green space.
Born Feb. 19, 1934, Jenkins first started preaching in the 1960s after he badly injured his arm and went to a tent revivalist. He pledged that if God healed his arm, he would serve him for the rest of his life. And he did, Danny Jenkins said.
Before his death, Jenkins lived near Orlando, Florida, where he moved two years before from Scottsdale, Arizona.
“He wanted people to have hope that there is a God,” Danny Jenkins said. “He preached faith – that was his biggest message.”
A private memorial service will be scheduled at a later date. Funeral services are being handled by Woodlawn Memorial Park and Funeral Home in Gotha, Florida.