LYNCHBURG, Va. (BP)–Jerry Falwell’s funeral will be Tuesday, May 22, at 1 p.m. at Thomas Road Baptist Church, the congregation he founded in Lynchburg, Va., officials announced May 15.
Falwell, a founder of the modern conservative Christian movement, will lie in repose in the Arthur S. Demoss Learning Center’s Grand Lobby at Liberty University for public viewing from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. May 17 and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 18.
A second viewing at Thomas Road will be from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. May 20 and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 21, according to a news release from Ron Godwin, executive vice president of the university. Burial will be private.
Instead of flowers, the Falwell family requests that memorials be made to the Founders Scholarship Fund at Liberty University “to further Dr. Falwell’s vision of spreading the gospel around the world.”
Falwell, 73, died of possible heart failure May 15, just four days before he was to preside over the university’s graduation ceremonies, including the first graduating class of the Liberty University School of Law. His family said the graduation will continue as planned May 19 with Newt Gingrich, a potential Republican candidate for president, as the keynote speaker.
“His life is a testimony not only to the power of faith to move hearts, but to the strength of the American ethos that stresses the importance of citizenship,” Gingrich said in a statement.
Godwin told The Lynchburg News & Advance that he met Falwell for breakfast at a Bob Evans restaurant the morning he died.
“The breakfast lasted until about 10 a.m.,” Godwin said. “Then he went to his office and I went to mine.”
About 11:10 a.m., a university employee called Godwin because Falwell was late for an appointment at the church, the newspaper reported.
“The secretary started looking for him because it was not like him to be late,” Falwell’s son, Jerry Falwell Jr., recounted to The News & Advance. “I told campus security to start looking for him. They went to his office and tried to resuscitate him, but it was too late.”
The Associated Press reported that Falwell seemed spiritually prepared for his death, mentioning the possibility just two weeks earlier from the pulpit of Thomas Road. Falwell apparently told the church that a man is indestructible until he has finished God’s work, and he said he was at peace about death.
On the day before he died, Falwell drove with his son to the top of Candlers Mountain overlooking the university where a new gazebo had been installed along with the university’s logo on the side of the mountain, The News & Advance said.
“He said he was feeling good,” Falwell Jr. said. “He said he was feeling better than he’d felt in a while.”
Among the Americans paying tribute to Falwell was President Bush, who released a statement May 15 saying he and his wife Laura were “deeply saddened by the death of Jerry Falwell, a man who cherished faith, family and freedom.” Bush said Falwell “lived a life of faith and called upon men and women of all backgrounds to believe in God and serve their communities,” and at Liberty University Falwell “taught young people to remain true to their convictions and rely upon God’s word throughout each stage of their lives.”
In an article by The Washington Post May 16, an expert on evangelicals and politics credited Falwell with waking the sleeping giant that was the conservative Christian voting bloc when he formed the Moral Majority in 1979.
“For all his critics, he was the most instrumental person in getting a heretofore apolitical group to become politically engaged,” Michael Cromartie of the Washington-based Ethics and Public Policy Center, said. “And that’s no small accomplishment.”
Compiled by Erin Roach.