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Florida Man Says He Is Donating Needed Money To Oral Roberts

March 22, 1987

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Oral Roberts, facing what he calls a deadline from God to raise $8 million by March 31 or die, said he planned to fast and pray for the remaining money, but a Florida man says he’ll donate the final $1.3 million.

Jerry Collins, who owns two greyhound racing tracks, signed a personal check to Roberts on Saturday morning at his office at the Sanford-Orlando Kennel Club, said publicist Phil Denis.

″He saw a story in the Orlando Sentinel this morning out of Tulsa saying Roberts was $1.3 million short of his goal and he was going to retreat to a prayer tower and fast until he raised the money,″ Denis said. ″He was touched by it. He gave me one of his personal checks and said to make it out for $1.3 million.″

The track publicist said he spoke with Oral Roberts’ son, Richard, Saturday afternoon.

″Richard said he will be flying in first thing tomorrow,″ Denis said. ″We’ve set up a luncheon meeting to actually hand over the check.″

″To be sure, he doesn’t have to commit hara-kiri now,″ Collins told The Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel later Saturday.

Collins, a former state senator, said he cares little about Roberts or his fund-raising deadline. The donation will be made to help the medical students, he said.

″I think he needs psychiatric treatment. He needs to relax ... and get back on the main street,″ said Collins, who told the paper he has cash assests of $14 million and is worth $75 million.

Collins has given money in the past for educational causes. Several years ago, he bought the Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers Circus and donated it to Florida State University. Recently he helped New College, an alternative school in Sarasota, pay for a $1 million new library.

No one from Roberts’ organization could be reached for comment on Collins’ donation. Telephone calls Saturday afternoon and evening to Roberts spokeswoman Jan Dargatz were answered by a recording that said the evangelist would have no comment on the situation until April 1.

Earlier Saturday, university officials prepared to close the gleaming 200- foot tower to the public and promised to keep the media away from the 69- year-old Roberts during what is expected to be a weeklong series of visits to the tower.

The pioneer television evangelist has been at the center of controversy since he said on his national television program Jan. 4 that God told him his life would end at the close of March if the money for medical missionary scholarships is not raised by then. At that time, he said he was $4.5 million from the goal.

It was in March a year ago Roberts first said that God had given him one year to raise the money for scholarships so Oral Roberts University medical school graduates could afford to be missionaries in Third World countries.

″So with God’s leading, on March 22 I am going to make the most important trip I have ever made up into the prayer tower,″ Roberts wrote followers in February. ″I’m going to be in and out of the prayer tower praying and fasting until victory comes or God calls me home.″

Earlier this month, he made an urgent plea for contributions and also advised followers to send him lists of their prayer requests. He said he would take the requests with him into the 20-year-old prayer tower.

Roberts taped his hourlong ″Expect A Miracle″ program in the prayer tower on Wednesday, said Dargatz.

She said the program would be broadcast Sunday while Roberts is in his prayer room beside an observation deck 100 feet up the tower. The tower, built of steel and glass and topped with an eternal flame, rises from sunken gardens at the center of the futuristically designed campus.

The tower is accessible through underground tunnels from at least one campus building.

Roberts won’t spend several uninterrupted days in the tower, Ms. Dargatz said. ″He’s not telling anybody when he’s going. He’s just planning to come and go,″ she added.

Ms. Dargatz said she did not know whether Oral or Richard Roberts, his son and vice president of the university, would announce before March 31 if the $8 million goal is reached.

It’s more likely, she said, that Oral Roberts will issue a summary statement on April 1 saying ″how much money exactly was received. ... It’ll be over $8 million, we hope.″

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