Jack Coe (March 11, 1918 – December 16, 1956) was one of the first tent evangelists of the post World War Two. Coe was ordained in the Assemblies of God in 1944, and began to preach while still serving in World War II. After receiving a miraculous healing, Coe felt called of God to the gospel ministry. For the next twelve years Coe would be a leading proponent of divine healing and organize many tent revivals to spread his message. Coe was hospitalized and diagnosed with bulbar polio in December 1956 and soon succumbed to the virus.
Jack Coe was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma one of seven children to George and Blanche Coe. Jack’s early years at home were filled with deprivation due to his father’s [George] addition to gambling and alcohol. After an episode of gambling where the family lost everything, Blanche left George and moved the children and herself to Pennsylvania, but soon reconciled with George. It wasn't long before George was back to gambling and drinking, and Blanche left him, this time taking their only daughter with her. George could not cope with raising six boys and soon Blanche returned for the boys. However, the reunion with the children dissolved when she could not take care of this large family by herself. At age nine  Jack and the oldest boy was placed in an orphanage, where he stayed until about 1935, when at age 17 Jack left the orphanage.
Conversion and Early Ministry
Jack's life was filled with uncertainty and drinking. His alcohol consumption brought a warning from his doctor that he was on the path of dying at a young age. Coe continued drinking and wandered between California and Texas, constantly pledging to God that he would stop. Years later, Coe would recount the experience that turned his life around. Jack testified that the Lord spoke to him during one of his drinking binges and said “This is your last chance.” Jack shook off alcohol and soon became a devout Christian attending church and studying the Bible. Jack attended Southwestern Bible Institute at Enid, Oklahoma (an Assembly of God Bible school), but he left the school after the start of World War Two and joined the Army. Coe continued his ties with the Assemblies of God, and preached several meetings while he was in the Army [eventually being ordained in 1944]. Coe said that he felt truly called to ministry [this is during 1945] after he experienced a divine healing from malaria, in which the doctors said they couldn’t treat, and announced that God had called him to heal the sick, cause the blind to see, and restore hearing to the deaf. True to his word, Coe soon began traveling the country. A year later  Coe and his wife Juanita sold their house and bought an old truck and used tent and began to live on the road as itinerate preachers, taking the message of God and healing to whoever would hear them.
Coe was dynamic and enthusiastic in his beliefs. Coe knew Oral Roberts and was taken in by the size of Robert’s revival tent. One day Coe went to a Roberts’s tent meeting and measured his tent. He then ordered one bigger. Coe was not bashful about announcing that his tent was the largest in the world [220 feet by 440 feet] seating over 22,000 people-bigger, he claims, than the one Barnum-and-Bailey Circus used.
In 1950, Coe left as coeditor of the Voice of Healing magazine and began his own magazine, which he called the Herald of Healing . Coe had worked with fellow evangelist Gordon Lindsay on the Voice of Healing, but Jack wanted his own magazine. The magazine, at the time of his death, was circulating at around 350,000 copies. Around the same time Coe opened a children's orphanage at Waxahachie, Texas, and built the Dallas Revival Center which became one of the largest churches in Dallas by 1954.
Conflict With His Denomination
Cole’s revival messages centered upon healing, and he was adamant about not taking medicines and visiting doctors. He preached and taught that consulting a doctor was connected with the mark of the beast. During an era that some call the “Religious Wars ,” the Assemblies of God expelled Coe (1953) on the grounds the he was "misleading the public." Coe was also accused of having an extravagant lifestyle and home. Upon hearting that, Coe printed pictures of four homes owned by some top officials in the AG and the homes of himself and three other men who worked with him. To Coe's defenders, the homes of Coe and of those who worked along side of him were modest compared to the church officials. It is probable that Coe was not being singled out due to the fact that other noted evangelists were being pressured to be more orthodox in their beliefs, preaching, and claims.
Coe's Arrest and Acquittal
Coe taught and preached fervently on divine healing and it would be during a revival service he was holding in Miami, Florida in 1956, that Coe’s beliefs would be brought into the national arena. Coe was charged on February 6th, 1956 with practicing medicine without a license. His arrest stemmed from an incident that occurred during a crusade in Miami, Florida. Coe had prayed for a boy [[[George Clark]]] who was stricken with polio. Coe told the boy's mother (Mrs. Ann Clark ), "If you believe Jesus heals the child, take the braces off, and leave them off." She removed the braces from the boy's legs, but as he attempted to take a step, he collapsed to the floor. Mrs. Clark did not immediately put the braces back on her son, but soon the boy's legs began to swell she took him to a doctor. The doctor said the braces need to be on the boy, but first she consulted with Coe via a letter. Coe did not answer her letter, so she contacted the police. Coe’s arrest, short jail stay, and trial brought national attention to Coe. It is reported that the Miami Herald’s switchboard was swamped with calls and broke down over interest in Coe and the case. After a short but highly publicized trial, the judge dismissed the case.
Just a few months later (December 1956 ) Coe was hospitalized after he fell ill while holding a revival at Hot Springs, Arkansas. What Coe felt was just fatigue and exhaustion caused by his demanding schedule, was actually bulbar polio, and he succumbed to this disease in just a few weeks at Dallas Parkland Hospital , on December 16, 1956 .
NOTE: There is some discrepancy to the exact date and place of Coe's death. Some sources cite his death as occurring in December 1956 or January 1957. Also sources cite his place of death in Dallas, Texas or Hot Springs, Arkansas. The New York Times and The Oklahoman ran obituaries on December 17, 1956. The Oklahoman ran the headline "Bulbar Polio Fatal To Dallas Faith Healer." The New York Times ran the headline to his obituary: JACK COE IS DEAD AT 38. Texas Evangelist Succumbs to Bulbar Polio in Dallas . Dateline Dallas, Texas, December 16 (AP). - Jack Coe, an evangelist died today at Parkland Hospital of Bulbar Poliomyelitis. His age was 38. Mr. Coe operated the Dallas Revival Center and the Herald of Healing at Waxahachie, Texas, about thirty miles south of here. He preached extensively throughout the south, and employed some eighty persons, including a staff at Waxahachie-where he taped a radio broadcast. His wife, Rev. Juanita Geneva Scott Coe of Lancaster, Texas died on September 27, 1996 and was burial in Laurel Land Memorial Park in Dallas, Texas. Mrs. Coe outlived her husband Jack by just days short of 40 years.
Legacy and Influence
Jack Coe during his brief tenure [1944-1956] was an up and coming evangelist whose unfortunate death while in his 30s, cut short his ministry and it would be speculation to claim Coe’s influence was generational. After his death, A.A. Allen bought his tent and continued on with large tent meetings, as did Oral Roberts. Coe’s magazine ceased publications, his Jack Coe Revival Center was renamed, and his orphanage is under other’s care. However, Coe is viewed as a pioneer by Oral Roberts, Kenneth Hagen, and several others, and acknowledge him as a trailblazer in the faith and healing movement.
Last updated: 05-23-2005 00:50:26