Expert on religion in America dies

Author, historian and Ponte Vedra resident David Edwin Harrell was 91


One of the pre-eminent experts on religion in America died Monday, March 15, at his home in Ponte Vedra Beach. David Edwin Harrell Jr. was 91.

A native of Jacksonville, Harrell was the go-to scholar for television and radio networks, as well as national magazines and major newspapers. He authored eight books, including biographies of television evangelists Oral Roberts and Pat Robertson, and co-authored a textbook, “Unto a Good Land: A History of the American People.” One of his books was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Harrell attended the U.S. Naval Academy and David Lipscomb College, earning his Ph.D. at Vanderbilt University.

He went on to teach at East Tennessee State University, the University of Oklahoma in Norman, the University of Georgia in Athens, the University of Alabama in Birmingham, the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and Auburn University.

He was listed in “Who’s Who in the World” and was a former U.S. ambassador to India. He lectured for the State Department in Asia and Africa and taught as a Senior Fulbright lecturer in Allahabad, India.

In addition to speaking around the United States, he presented lectures or programs in Australia, Bangladesh, China, Egypt, England, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Nigeria, Romania, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Switzerland.

He published 48 articles, writing for several journals, encyclopedias and more. He was one of five men who founded and edited Christianity Magazine.

He made numerous network television appearances at both the network and local station levels, and was interviewed on “Good Morning America,” “CBS Evening News” and CNN. He was a consultant for BBC News, “Larry King Live” and other network news outlets.

He was also interviewed for Time, Newsweek, The New Yorker, TV Guide and several other magazines, as well as newspapers all over the world, including The New York Times, Washington Post and Chicago Tribune.

Harrell was an avid golfer with a handicap of six and played on five continents – including the course with the highest elevation in the world, in East Sikkim, India, located in the Himalayan Mountains.

According to his obituary, his travels allowed him to work in what he considered the most important of his life’s labors: preaching the gospel, edifying saints worldwide and establishing New Testament churches in the farthest corners of the globe.

He was a member of the South Jacksonville Church of Christ.

Harrell is preceded in death by his parents, David Edwin Harrell Sr. and Mildred Lee Harrell; sisters Marilyn Harrell Hardage (Robert) and Elinor Harrell; and sons John Stephen and Harold Robert.

He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Adelia Roberts Harrell; and four children, Mildred Harrell Harris of Woodbridge, Virginia; David Edwin Harrell III of Tampa; Elizabeth Harrell Roberts (Russ) of Ponte Vedra; and Lee Harrell Carter (Tony) of Wiesbaden, Germany. He is also survived by eight grandchildren, six great-grandchildren; two nieces and two nephews.