Kathryn Johanna Kuhlman (1907-1976), evangelist and faith healer, was born near the town of Concordia, Missouri into a Baptist family. Converted in a revival in 1921, she attended a Christian & Missionary Alliance bible college in Washington, but left to begin preaching with a sister and brother-in-law in the Rocky Mountain states. She eventually laid down roots in Denver, Colorado and by the mid-1930s was broadcasting on the radio and had her own 2,000-seat revival tabernacle. In the late 1930s she became involved with Burroughs Waltrip, another traveling evangelist who divorced his wife to marry Kuhlman in 1938. Forced to leave Denver they relocated to Mason City, Iowa only to experience bankruptcy only a few months after opening a new “Radio Chapel.” For the next eight years the couple toured together and separately before the troubled marriage finally ended in divorce in 1947. By that time, Kuhlman had begun holding meetings in Franklin, Pennsylvania outside of Pittsburgh.
Although Kuhlman had never emphasized healing as part of her ministry, numbers of reports of miraculous healings emerged from those meetings causing Kuhlman to believe that the Holy Spirit was appearing spontaneously at her services. Moving to Pittsburgh in 1948 she developed a radio ministry and attracted a great deal of local criticism from local clergy. After a sympathetic article appeared in Redbook magazine in 1950, Kuhlman gained national notoriety and began to tour the country with her “miracle services.” Known for a flamboyant lifestyle marked by first-class travel and jewelry, Kuhlman had a concomitant reputation for generosity through her Kathryn Kuhlman Foundation which helped out local needy families, aided Pittsburgh charities, sent money to various denominational foreign missions, and supported the anti-drug work of David Wilkerson’s (author of The Cross and the Switchblade) Teen Challenge organization. In 1965 she re-located most of her efforts to Los Angeles and began conducting regular services in the 7,000-seat Shrine Auditorium. During the 1960s and 1970s her television broadcasts (“I Believe in Miracles”) and a series of briskly-selling books co-written with author Jamie Buckingham made her a central figure in the emerging charismatic movement. The last few years of Kuhlman’s life were marked by controversy including criticism and law suits launched by some of her inner circle. An attempt to deal with a serious heart ailment led to open heart surgery which claimed her life in early 1976.
For further reading see Wayne E. Warner, Kathryn Kuhlman: The Woman Behind the Miracles (Servant, 1993).