Kathryn Johanna Kuhlman was an American born-again Christian and healing evangelist, born on May 9, 1907, in Concordia, Missouri to German-American parents, Joseph Adolph Kuhlman and Emma Walkenhorst. she was one of four children. Her mother was a harsh disciplinarian, who showed little love or affection. But she had an extremely close and loving relationship with her father. She would describe, as a small child how, her father would come home from work and she would hang on his leg and cling to him. She often said that her relationship with God the Father was extremely real because of her relationship with her own father.
Kathryn Kuhlman became born-again at the age of fourteen in the Methodist Church of Concordia, Missouri. In her own words, she said of that experience and her ministry: “It was the beginning of something that changed my whole life. All that I knew was the glorious new birth experience, and (as a young girl) when I went to preach to those farmers in Idaho, I could tell them nothing more than what I had experienced: that Jesus would forgive their sins. So, I preached salvation all across Idaho to every farmer, to everyone who would listen; but gradually I began to realize there was someone besides the Father and the Son – there was this Third Person of the Trinity. I felt compelled to know more regarding Him and, as I began searching and studying God’s Word, I could see that divine healing also was in the atonement.”
“It was in Franklin, Pennsylvania in the old Billy Sunday Tabernacle. I had gone to Franklin by faith (l946), not knowing what I would find there. It was in the third service, as I was preaching on the Holy Spirit, sharing with the people the little that I knew about that Third Person of the Trinity – a woman stood up and testified to her healing of a tumor. That was the first healing that took place in this ministry. It happened without the laying on of hands, without any special prayer; it just happened as a woman sat in the audience while I was preaching on the power of the Holy Spirit. Since that time, there have been thousands and thousands of healings. WHAT IS THE SECRET? It is the Third Person of the Trinity – the Holy Spirit!”
When she was 16 she graduated from high school, which only went to tenth grade in their town. He older sister Myrtle had married an itinerant evangelist, Everett B. Parrott. They spent their time traveling and asked that Kathryn could join them for the summer. Her parents agreed and she went to Oregon to help out. She worked with them, and often gave her testimony. When the summer was over she wanted to stay, and the couple agreed. She ended up working with them for five years.
The evangelistic team was made up of four people, Everette, Myrtle, Kathryn, and pianists named Helen Gulliford. In 1928 Everette missed a meeting in Boise, Idaho. Myrtle and Kathryn preached to cover for Everette. The pastor of the church encouraged Kathryn to step out on her own. Helen agreed to join her. Her first sermon was in a run-down pool hall in Boise, Idaho. The team covered Idaho, Utah, and Colorado for the following five years. In 1933 they moved into Pueblo, Colorado. They set up in an abandoned Montgomery Ward warehouse. They stayed there for six months.
Denver, being a much bigger city, was the next stop. They moved several times but ended up in a paper company’s warehouse, which they named the Kuhlman Revival Tabernacle. Then in 1935 they moved once more to an abandoned truck garage they named the Denver Revival Tabernacle. Kathryn was seeing a lot of success in Denver. The church grew to about 2000 members. She began a radio show called “Smiling Through” and invited speakers from all over the country. One of them was Phil Kerr who taught on divine healing. In 1935 another invited evangelist was Burroughs Waltrip.
Waltrip was bad news for Kuhlman. He was a charismatic, handsome Texas evangelist who was eight years her senior. There was an immediate attraction, and one family claims to have seen the couple embracing in 1935, but he was married and had two children. Waltrip left Denver and went home to Austin, Texas, but the relationship simmered between Kuhlman and Waltrip. In 1937 he was invited back to Denver to take the pulpit for two months. Shortly after, he divorced his wife and abandoned his two sons. He then spread the story that his wife had left him. He moved to Mason City, Iowa, where he told everyone he was single, and started a revival center called Radio Chapel. Kathryn and her friend and pianist Helen Gulliford came into town to help him raise funds for his ministry. It was shortly after their arrival that the romance between Burroughs and Kathryn became publicly known.
Kuhlman and Waltrip, married in September 1938. Kuhlman was naive about the consequences of her choices and the marriage was a disaster. She announced to her church that she and Waltrip were married and they would go between Denver and Mason City preaching at their two churches. Most of the people in her congregation left due to her relationship with Waltrip. She gave up her church in Denver, lost some of her closest associates including Helen, and moved to Mason City. Waltrip’s success turned out to be a pipe dream as well. The Radio Chapel was completed in June of 1938. By October 1938 Waltrip could not meet his debts. In December Waltrip was demanding a higher salary, even with the shortfall in income. His Board of Directors quit and left him to deal with the finances. His solution was not to pay the mortgage or debts on the Chapel. Radio Chapel went into bankruptcy. Waltrip’s last sermon was in May 1939. The Waltrips were on their own. Kathryn’s happy vision of she and her husband flying back and forth between Denver and Mason City with a successful preaching careers was utterly demolished.
The next few years were very hard for the couple. They embarked on the road as traveling evangelists, primarily staying in the Midwest. They were not accepted in many places due to their marriage history. Initial advertisements listed Waltrip as the primary evangelist. Then occasionally Mrs. Waltrip was also mentioned. By the early 1940s Kathryn Kuhlman Waltrip was given equal billing. Finally by the mid-1940s Kathryn was using only Kathryn Kuhlman in meetings where she was the primary speaker. In 1944 Kuhlman went on an evangelistic tour on the east coast without Waltrip. It may have been a conscious decision to leave him, or she may also have taken the opportunity to reassess her life. It appears to have been more gradual as Waltrip wrote about them as a couple as late as 1946. Kuhlman never returned to Waltrip and they eventually divorced in 1947. She left her marriage behind and from then on acted as if it never existed in the first place.
Kuhlman traveled extensively around the United States and in many other countries holding “healing crusades” between the 1940s and 1970s. She was one of the most well known healing ministers in the world. In 1946 Kuhlman was asked to speak in Franklin, Pennsylvania. She was well received and decided to stay in the area. Kuhlman began preaching on radio broadcasts in Oil City, Pennsylvania. These became so popular they were picked up in Pittsburgh, and she was preaching throughout the area. She began to preach about the healing power of God. In 1947 a woman was healed of a tumor while listening to Kuhlman preach. Several Sundays later a man was also healed while she was teaching on the Holy Spirit. She was now convinced of God’s healing work. One important thing to note is the context and timing of this breakout period in Kuhlman’s life. 1947 was the beginning of the Healing Revival (sometimes referred to as the Latter Rain Revival) that would last for the next 10 years. What was happening in Kuhlman’s meetings was breaking out across the United States. It was in this time frame that the Voice of Healing Ministry was established and men like William Branham, Oral Roberts, A.A. Allen and many others were propelled onto the public stage. Kuhlman was not associated with those groups, but stepped into the flow of what God’s Spirit was doing across the nation and the world.
In 1948 Kuhlman held a series of meetings at Carnegie Hall in Pittsburgh. She eventually moved to Pittsburgh in 1950, and continued to hold meetings at Carnegie Hall until 1971. She was used by God to bring the charismatic message to many denominational churches, including the Catholic Church. (She received a lot of criticism over this and was accused of being a closet Catholic.) These were her best known years. Her style was flamboyant. She would hold her famous miracle services and the auditorium was filled to capacity every time. She was on radio and television shows. She was ordained in 1968 by the Evangelical Church Alliance. Hundreds of people were healed in her meetings, and even while listening to her on the radio or television. People she prayed for would often be hit with the power of God and be “slain in the Spirit.” Kuhlman never claimed that she was the healer. She always pointed people to Jesus as their healer.
By 1970 she moved to Los Angeles, conducting faith healing for thousands of people every week. She became well known for her “gift of healing” despite, as she often said, having no theological training or healing power.
Kuhlman had a weekly TV program in the 1960s and 1970s called I Believe In Miracles that was aired nationally. She also had a 30-minute nationwide radio ministry of teaching from the Bible and, frequently, would feature excerpts from her healing services (both music and message).The foundation was established in 1954, and its Canadian branch in 1970. Towards her latter years she was supportive of the nascent Jesus movement, a spread of interest in Jesus among young teens formerly associated with drugs and the counter-culture. She was friends with Christian television pioneer Pat Robertson and made guest appearances at his Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) and on the network’s flagship program “The 700 Club.”
Kathryn Kuhlman always pointed men and women to Jesus, emphasizing that the greatest miracle was the transformation of a life. She often said:
“I believe in miracles with every atom of my being… because I believe in God – but Kathryn Kuhlman has nothing to do with the healing of sick bodies. I have no healing power. It’s the power of God that does the healing. The only part I have in it is making Jesus real to the hearts of men and women. Any results there might be in this life of mine, is not Kathryn Kuhlman. It’s the Holy Spirit; IT’S WHAT THE HOLY SPIRIT DOES THROUGH A YIELDED VESSEL.”
Kuhlman had been diagnosed with a heart problem in 1955. She kept a very busy schedule and overworked herself, especially in the 1970’s. She traveled back and forth from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles frequently, as well as taking trips around the world. Due to heart flareup, she had a relapse in November 1975 while in Los Angeles. As a result, her heart was enlarged and she had open heart surgery in Tulsa, Oklahoma from which she died on February 20, 1976. Kathryn Kuhlman is interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. A plaque in her honor is located in the main city park in Concordia, Missouri, a town located in central Missouri on Interstate Highway 70.
Videos of some of her services are still available and continue to be popular today.