Alpha Rex Emmanuel Humbard was born on August 13, 1919, in Little Rock, Arkansas, to Pentecostal evangelists. He began attending church revivals all across the country and began to know God as a little boy, while withstanding the order from his father in learning how to play guitar while in church. Humbard was also the first evangelist to have a weekly nationwide television program in the United States, running from 1952 to 1983, although his first television broadcast was in 1949. Humbard's $4 million Cathedral of Tomorrow church in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, a suburb of nearby Akron, was built in 1958 specifically to accommodate television equipment, crew and chorus, as well as seating for 5,400 people.
Humbard's television programs featured gospel music such as the popular Cathedral Quartet. Humbard's wife, Maude Aimee, and his children were also often featured on the programs. His ministry eventually extended to Canada, Europe, the Middle East, Far East, Australia, Latin America and Africa, giving it a worldwide reach of 8 million viewers, greater than any of his contemporaries by the late 1970s. In Brazil, he attracted large crowds at the giant soccer stadium in São Paulo for weeks. Humbard officiated at Elvis Presley's funeral, as Presley had been an admirer of Humbard's ministry.
In the 1960s, Humbard's ministry started to purchase businesses through a for-profit arm to raise money. Over time they owned a girdle factory in Brooklyn, an office tower in Akron, a college on Mackinac Island, an advertising agency, an apartment building, and other assets.
Humbard's ministry ran into financial problems in the early 1970s. Starting in 1959, the ministry had sold bonds and promissory notes through its own team of salesmen. The securities were not registered and came under the scrutiny of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Officials in at least six states halted the sale of the securities. Humbard said that the SEC did not allow him to count expected bequests from wills as assets, that the ministry never missed an interest payment, and that the investors were not worried about losing their money. In the end, he was forced to sell off nearly all of the ministry's assets and cut off the overseas operations.
Humbard was inducted into the Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1993 by Ohio Governor George Voinovich. He was termed one of the "Top 25 Principal Architects of the American Century" by U.S. News & World Report on December 27, 1999.
Humbard began to build a rotating-tower restaurant (similar to Calgary Tower) at his Cathedral of Tomorrow complex in Cuyahoga Falls, which was also slated to hold a transmission tower for his planned local TV station on Channel 55, WCOT. During that time, though, the SEC investigation mentioned above occurred and Humbard had to stop construction of the tower. Years later, the tower was purchased by a local businessman and is now used as a cellular phone tower.
Humbard's son Rex, Jr. succeeded his father in the ministry after the family moved to Florida in 1982. But Humbard's television ministry was influential in promoting an independent Christian television station in Canton, Ohio, WDLI (Channel 17), which later was purchased by the Trinity Broadcasting Network as its Cleveland-area station. Another son, Charles, heads the UP television network.
The rest of Humbard's Cathedral of Tomorrow complex was sold in 1994 to television evangelist Ernest Angley, along with the Channel 55 license, which was used by Angley's Winston Broadcasting Network division for the current Akron-licensed and Cuyahoga Falls-based CW affiliate, WBNX-TV.
After retiring to Lantana, Florida, in the 1980s with his wife, Maude Aimee (whom he married in 1942), Humbard was still often seen on television broadcasts and at public appearances preaching Christianity. He wrote two autobiographies, Miracles in My Life and, in 2006, The Soul Winning Century, The Humbard Family Legacy. In April 2007, he was inducted into the Arkansas Walk of Fame.
Rex Humbard died on September 21, 2007, in Atlantis, Florida, of congestive heart failure, following hospitalization, at the age of 88. He was survived by his wife, Maude (who died in 2012), and four children. He is buried at Rose Hill Burial Park in Fairlawn, Ohio.