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Moral Majority Founder Jerry Falwell Dead at 73

The Rev. Jerry Falwell pictured in 2006.
Joseph Kaczmarek
The Rev. Jerry Falwell pictured in 2006.

The Rev. Jerry Falwell, who founded the Moral Majority and built the religious right into a political force, died Tuesday shortly after being found unconscious in his office at Liberty University, a school executive said. He was 73.

Ron Godwin, the university's executive vice president, said Falwell was found unresponsive around 10:45 am and taken to Lynchburg General Hospital.

Godwin said he was not sure what caused the collapse, but he said Falwell "has a history of heart challenges."

"I had breakfast with him, and he was fine at breakfast," Godwin said. "He went to his office, I went to mine, and they found him unresponsive."

Falwell, a television evangelist who founded the Moral Majority, became the face of the religious right in the 1980s. He later founded the conservative Liberty University and served as its president.

Falwell survived two serious health scares in early 2005. He was hospitalized for two weeks with what was described as a viral infection, then was hospitalized again a few weeks later after going into respiratory arrest. Later that year, doctors found a 70% blockage in an artery, which they opened with stents.

Liberty University's commencement is scheduled for Saturday, with former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich as the featured speaker.