Robert Schuller, the televangelist who founded the Crystal Cathedral and reached millions worldwide with his Hour Of Power TV program, died today at a care center in Artesia, CA. He was 88. He had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer two years ago.

Crystal CathedralSchuller began his evangelical Protestant ministry in 1955, preaching from atop the snack stand of a Los Angeles drive-in theater. Cloaked in his signature purple robe and large glasses, his measured, smiling delivery went against the grain of many of his lakes-of-fire contemporaries. Schuller started airing Hour Of Power in 1970 and built it into an international religious behemoth, at its peak drawing more than 20 millions viewers worldwide. He hosted the show for four decades, until 2010, more than 30 of those years with his son. Schuller’s grandson, Bobby Schuller, is the current host.

By the early 1980s, Hour Of Power was being broadcast from the Crystal Cathedral, the sprawling, glass-paned church the elder Schuller founded in Garden Grove, CA. But his ministry eventually fell on rough times amid family squabbling and a 2010 bankruptcy. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange acquired the property in 2011, renaming it Christ Cathedral, and Schuller and his wife left the church the following year.

Friendly with Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton, Schuller was among the first foreign religious figures invited to preach on Russian television.