I posted this article because I am a big fan of Bonanza and like the show to this day. I don’t watch it too much anymore, but if I see it when flipping through the channels I will hang in there and watch it. I think with the exception of David Canary, who played the role of Candy on Bonanza, there are no other surviving cast members. David Canary still enjoys an acting career on the ABC soap opera called “One life to Live.” JD
LOS ANGELES — Pernell Roberts, a versatile actor best remembered for his portrayal of the handsome eldest Cartwright son on the classic television western “Bonanza” and later as the lead character in the medical drama “Trapper John, M.D.,” died at his Malibu home Sunday. He was 81.
His death after a two-year battle with cancer was confirmed by his wife, Eleanor Criswell.
Roberts became a star as Adam Cartwright, the heir apparent of the fictional Ponderosa ranch, a role he filled from the show’s debut in 1959 until 1965, when he left the cast despite the series’ immense popularity. “Bonanza” remained on the air for eight more years without him.
The longest-running TV western after “Gunsmoke” and the first to be broadcast in color, “Bonanza” broke the mold for its genre with its emphasis on character development over gunplay.
The cast was headed by Lorne Greene, who played thrice-widowed patriarch Ben, and also featured Dan Blocker as the lovably oafish middle son, Hoss, and Michael Landon as the hotheaded youngest son, Little Joe.
Roberts was the well-educated and mature brother, who played Adam with a suave manner that won a legion of fans.
He found the role unfulfilling, however, and left the show at its peak, a decision that caused him to be “scratched off by most of his contemporary fellow actors as some kind of a nut,” Times critic Hal Humphrey wrote in 1967.
Oral Roberts, the Pentecostal evangelist whose televised faith-healing ministry attracted millions of followers worldwide and made him one of the most recognizable and controversial religious leaders of the 20th century, died Tuesday in Newport Beach, Calif. He was 91.
The cause was complications of pneumonia, said Melany Ethridge, a spokeswoman for Mr. Roberts. He died at a hospital in Newport Beach, where he lived.
At the height of his influence, Mr. Roberts sat at the head of a religious, educational and communications enterprise based in Tulsa, Okla., that managed a university that bears his name, mounted healing “crusades” on five continents, preached on prime-time national television and published dozens of books and magazines.
He was the patriarch of the “prosperity gospel,” a theology that promotes the idea that Christians who pray and donate with sufficient fervency will be rewarded with health, wealth and happiness. Mr. Roberts trained and mentored several generations of younger prosperity gospel preachers who now have television and multimedia empires of their own. Mr. Roberts was as politically conservative as his contemporaries in what became known as the “religious right,” but he was known more for his religious style than for his political pronouncements. He was widely lampooned after he proclaimed on his television program in 1987 that God would “call him home” if he did not raise millions.
By 1985, the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association and Oral Roberts University employed more than 2,300 people and earned $110 million in revenue. The expanse of Mr. Roberts’s ministry, coupled with his fiery preaching, tycoonlike vision and jet-set lifestyle, also attracted persistent questions throughout his career about his theology and his unorthodox fund-raising techniques, although no credible evidence of malfeasance was ever produced on his watch.
His university later fell into debt, however, and his son, Richard Roberts, was forced to leave his post as head of the university in 2007 after he was accused of using university funds for personal luxuries.
Oral Roberts, who rose from stifling poverty and a nearly fatal case of tuberculosis as a teenager, rarely fought back in public. He was convinced, he said, that God had spoken to him directly as a young man and had ordered him on the path — pursued with uncommon entrepreneurial energy — to “put Jesus into my focus at the center of all my thoughts, my dreams, my plans, my accomplishments, my destiny and any legacy I might leave behind.”
His influence derived from his intimate understanding of those who turned to him for worship. They were white and black and Hispanic, the poor and the ill, hard-working people who could not afford an abundance of material possessions but whose dreams of health and prosperity were tied to an abiding love of God.
The rise of his ministry coincided with the development of television. Mr. Roberts was among the first American religious leaders to recognize and deploy this new communications tool to touch people, and he seized on its extraordinary national and global reach. It helped that he was a natural showman, capable of booming, florid oratory. But he could also be intimate and tender, relying on a homespun speaking style, a gentle touch and a deep knowledge of Scripture to connect with his followers, many of whom viewed him as heroic.
He began his television career in 1954 by filming worship services conducted under a traveling tent, the largest of which held 10,000 people. He maintained that God worked in a miraculous way through his hands, and the peak of every service came when he seated himself like a prince on an elevated stage and worshipers gathered in a prayer line. One by one they paused before Mr. Roberts, spellbound, as his right hand gripped their bodies and he prayed for healing.
Leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States and other religious denominations questioned the authenticity of the healing. In the mid-1950s, in a step that would become familiar, a group of Arizona ministers offered to pay $1,000 to anyone who had been healed by Mr. Roberts and could provide medical proof. They received no response. Still, thousands of Mr. Roberts’s followers asserted that they had been cured by his hand alone.
On the first night of a 10-day crusade in Harrisburg, Pa., for example, a frail boy stricken by polio and epilepsy rose unsteadily to his feet after Mr. Roberts had touched him. Of his doubters, Mr. Roberts said at the time: “I’ll leave them to their theology. I’m out to save souls. I have more friends among doctors than among ministers.”
Mr. Roberts’s will to succeed, as well as his fame, helped to elevate Pentecostal theology and practice, including the belief in faith healing, divine miracles and speaking in tongues, to the religious mainstream. During the 1970s, Time magazine reported, his television program “Oral Roberts and You” was the leading religious telecast in the nation.
Oral Roberts University estimated that Mr. Roberts, its founder and first president, had personally laid his hands on more than 1.5 million people during his career, reached more than 500 million people on television and radio, and received millions of letters and appeals. Among those seeking counsel and prayer were Presidents John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon and Jimmy Carter. John Lennon wrote a letter to Mr. Roberts in 1972 seeking forgiveness for publicly remarking that the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus” and asking him to “explain to me what Christianity can do for me.”
Mr. Roberts’s prominence and will to succeed were important factors in building the Pentecostal and charismatic movements and combining them into the fastest-growing Christian movements in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s and, by 2000, the largest Christian movement in the world. “No one had done more to bring the Pentecostal message to respectability and visibility in America,” David Edwin Harrell Jr. wrote in “Oral Roberts: An American Life” (Indiana University, 1985).
Granville Oral Roberts was born on Jan. 24, 1918, in the countryside near Ada, in Pontotoc County, Okla. He was the youngest of four children, three of them boys, raised in frontier poverty by Ellis Roberts, a traveling Pentecostal preacher, and his wife, Claudius, who was part Cherokee. When he was 16, Mr. Roberts was found to have a case of tuberculosis so advanced that he was not expected to survive. While he was bedridden, a healing evangelist named George Moncey held worship services in a tent in Ada. On the car ride to Mr. Moncey’s service, Mr. Roberts later recalled, he heard God talking to him.
“It was as if I was totally alone,” Mr. Roberts wrote in his autobiography, “Expect a Miracle” (Thomas Nelson, 1995), one of more than 50 books he wrote. “Then I heard that voice I’ve heard many times since: ‘Son, I am going to heal you, and you are to take my healing power to your generation. You are to build me a university and build it on my authority and the Holy Spirit.’ ”
At the end of the service, Mr. Roberts recalled, Mr. Moncey stepped in front of him, put his hand on the boy’s head and commanded the disease to “come out of this boy.”
Mr. Roberts recovered fully and began a new life of prayer and preaching. He was 18 when he delivered his first sermon. That same year he met Evelyn Lutman Fahnestock, a schoolteacher. They married on Christmas Day, 1938. By then Mr. Roberts was two years into a 12-year career as a pastor in towns around the South and had studied at Oklahoma Baptist College and other religious universities.
In the late 1940s, Mr. Roberts said, he heard God speak to him again, urging him to “be like Jesus and heal people as he did.” He rented an auditorium in Enid, Okla., and held his first healing service. A turnout of 1,000 inspired him to resign his pastorate in Enid and move to Tulsa, where he founded the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association and began an itinerant ministry of faith healing.
In 1963 he founded Oral Roberts University. Accredited in 1971, it now has about 3,000 students and is the largest charismatic Christian university in the world.
In 1978 he began building the City of Faith Medical Center, a 2.2 million-square-foot, $250 million assemblage. But its construction was challenged by Tulsa’s existing hospital providers, who questioned the need.
The medical center’s economic problems produced an indelible moment that seemed to distill the concerns about Mr. Roberts’s practices that many of his opponents had long harbored. In early January 1987, on his television show, he made an appeal that tied his life to a $4.5 million fund-raising goal.
“I’m asking you to help extend my life,” he said. “We’re at the point where God could call Oral Roberts home in March.”
The appeal was widely ridiculed by religious leaders and late-night television comedians. Mr. Roberts subsequently announced that he had met his goal, raising a total of $8 million, and that his life had been spared. The medical center closed in 1989.
Mr. Roberts’s personal life was as prone to crisis as his career. Rebecca, his oldest child, and her husband, Marshall Nash, died in a plane crash in 1977. His youngest son, Ronnie Roberts, died of a self-inflicted gunshot in 1982.
Mr. Roberts’s wife of 66 years, Evelyn, died in 2005. He is survived by a daughter, Roberta Potts, and a son, Richard Roberts, who succeeded him as president of Oral Roberts University and resigned in 2007, both of Tulsa; 12 grandchildren; and several great-grandchildren.
Mr. Roberts came out of retirement in 2007 to temporarily assume the largely ceremonial position of co-president of Oral Roberts University, after Richard Roberts took a leave of absence. In 2009, Oral Roberts addressed the Oklahoma State Senate, which had passed a resolution honoring him for his life’s work.
“I’m 91 years of age, and I’ll soon be going home to my heavenly father,” he said. “I look forward to that with great peace and joy, leaving behind my legacy to bless the people.”