A flamboyant and controversial religious leader who formerly lived in Delaware County has died.
Evangelist Leroy Jenkins passed away Wednesday at the age of 83 in Florida, according to his son, Danny Jenkins. The elder Jenkins apparently succumbed to complications from pneumonia.
Leroy Jenkins was the founder of the Leroy Jenkins Evangelistic Association and Holy Hill Cathedral, which was formerly located at 470 S. Sandusky St. in Delaware. According to the Delaware County Auditor’s website, that property has been owned by the Yogi Divine Society of NJ Inc. since 2003 when Jenkins sold it for $1.35 million.
Described as a devout and caring man, Jenkins was a renowned “faith healer” who conducted tent revivals across the country during the 1960s. After coming to Delaware in 1968, he built a large and faithful following. He continued to draw in large numbers later when he ministered in his hometown of Greenwood, South Carolina and more recently in Scottsdale, Arizona under the umbrella of Leroy Jenkins Ministries.
However, Jenkins’ ministry was not without controversy. He was embroiled in legal troubles related to Holy Hill Cathedral as the State of Ohio sought to shutter the facility in 1977 after he refused to submit building plans for an expansion project. He reached an agreement with the state and the cathedral was closed for nearly a year.
Prior to that, Jenkins came under fire from state officials for his use of so-called miracle water, which he claimed healed people. The Ohio Department of Agriculture determined in 2003 that the water, which he bottled in Delaware and sold to his followers and others, was contaminated with coliform bacteria. Coliform, which comes from human and animal waste, can cause serious illnesses.
Jenkins disputed that claim, telling the Associated Press at the time, “don’t you think that after 30 years we would have one complaint out of our congregation?”
The minister was fined $200 for selling the water without a license. He later stopped selling it.
Jenkins also mounted a short-lived campaign for governor of Ohio in 1977.
“It’s like I’ve already won; I just feel that much confidence,” he told The Gazette after announcing his intention to run.
Jenkins later abandoned his effort and moved to South Carolina.
“There won’t be no excitement in this town now,” Jenkins told The Gazette as he left Delaware.
Reach Carter at 740-413-0900 or on Twitter at @DelOhioEditor.