‘Lester Frank Sumrall would be gravely disappointed’: Judge rules in family squabble

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Hoosier evangelist Lester F. Sumrall, one of the pioneers of Christian television, wrote an important reminder on the front page of his Bible.

“If I die rich,” he wrote, “I die a traitor to the cause of Christ and to the Gospel.”

The simple faith statement was a warning to reject trappings of the material world, even as millions of dollars from sales and gifts flowed into Sumrall’s global ministry based in South Bend.

In 1996, he died true to his beliefs. Everything he had went to the ministry. But that hasn’t stopped Sumrall’s grandchildren from fighting over his legacy, including control of the multimillion-dollar religious broadcasting and publishing empire and whether there should have been a personal estate distributed to the evangelist’s heirs.

Acrimonious and unseemly at times, the legal wrangling in state and federal courts started nearly 20 years ago, spurring unfounded allegations of a hidden will, fraud, trademark infringement, missing artifacts and much more — even claims that one cousin is an atheist.

Sumrall’s oldest grandchild and namesake, Lester L. Sumrall of Bristol in Elkhart County, has been leading those attacks. He claims to be the televangelist’s “rightful spiritual and legal heir” but hasn’t had a role with the family ministry since his grandfather’s death.

Content retrieved from: https://www.indystar.com/story/news/2023/08/28/lester-sumrall-namesake-loses-family-legal-fight-lesea-ministry/70697253007/.

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