NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Rev. David Wilkerson, founding pastor of Times Square Church in New York City and author of the best-selling book, “The Cross and the Switchblade,” has died. He was 79.

Wilkerson died Wednesday afternoon in a car accident in East Texas, Texas Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Tela Mange said. Wilkerson’s car smashed head-on into a tractor-trailer rig after veering into oncoming traffic on U.S. 175 west of Cuney, about 95 miles southeast of Dallas, Mange said.

1010 WINS’ Stan Brooks reports: Remembering David Wilkerson

Wilkerson founded the non-denominational Protestant Times Square Church in 1987 in an area of Manhattan that was then riddled with X-rated movie houses, strip clubs, prostitution and drugs.

Many went to the Church Thursday to pay their respects to the pastor.

“He was very kind, he helped a lot of people. When my son died he gave me a special service,” Sal Sorrentino told 1010 WINS’ Stan Brooks. “He was something unbelievable, I loved the man.”

“He’s such a wonderful man of God,” Billy Betts, who works security at the Church, said. “Such a warm feeling, and the love that he had for all people and he’d do whatever he can for anyone.”

Wilkerson also founded Teen Challenge, which uses a biblically based recovery program for drug addicts.

In “The Cross and the Switchblade” Wilkerson wrote about his early years in New York City administering to drug addicts and gang members. The 1963 book became a best-seller and was made into a movie starring Pat Boone.

His family confirmed his death in a statement posted on the website for Wilkerson’s World Challenge Inc. ministries, saying he “went to be with Jesus.”

“We appreciate your prayers and our hearts are sorrowful, yet we rejoice at the joy of knowing David Wilkerson spent his life well,” the statement said.

Wilkerson was not wearing a seat-belt at the time of the crash, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety. His wife, Gwendolyn, was also in the car and was wearing a seat-belt, Mange said. She was taken to a hospital, where she was in stable condition with cuts and bruises, Mange said.

Along with his wife, David Wilkerson is survived by four children.

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments (11)
  1. Joany N. Demeny says:

    It was my joy to work with David Wilkerson for many years during his crusades in Anaheim, CA I was a counsellor during the time of the amazing messages he gave, leading hundreds of young people to the Lord Jesus. Brother Dave, in my estimation was the finest Christian I have ever had the privilege of meeting. The lord indeed used him to turn my life around in the right direction. His wife Gwen is like an angel, I met her also in LA during a missionary endeavor.
    News of his accident is a shock, though, now he is in paradise rejoicing with Jesus… what ultimate joy for our Brother Dave we loved you & will miss you so much !
    To the family, my deepest sympathy & love.

  2. Bob and Caroline Sellers says:

    Our condolescences to the family. It was wonderful to know such a great man of God and it is sad to see him go. But God must have some work for him to do elsewhere. We were sad all day, he has always touch our lives with his messages. We enjoyed his newsletters and they were always so timely to our lives. We will remember him everyday.

  3. Lorna says:

    My condolences to the Wilkerson family. The book “The Cross and the Switchblade” left a great impression on me when I was a baby Christian. It made me want to know Jesus and to help people through His love the way Reverend Wilkerson did. It also showed me that much can be accomplished by simple obedience to and trust in God. We have lost a prophetic voice whose prayer covering and ministries were a great help to New York City and our nation.

  4. Jansen family says:

    We sorrow though not as the world sorrows.His life bears witness.,There is victory in this storm.O death…where is your sting

  5. Violet Stine says:

    David was a wonderful man of God. He never looked for man’s glory, only wanted to please the Lord. My husband, age 81, read his devotionals daily and considered him to be his mentior. Our prayers god will the family. Thanks Lord for sharing David with us all these years.

  6. Ju says:

    It was in reading his book, “The Cross and Switchblade” given to me by some Spirit filled So. Baptists, that I dared to believe that God is able to do in our world today what happened in the book of Acts, and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is for us today. I have always respected and trusted this Man of God. Only eternity will tell how many lives have been changed by this one man’s obedience! June Beachel, Okmulgee, OK

  7. Linda says:

    He will be missed so very much. A true man of God.

  8. Allen Davis says:

    Only eternity will reveal the number of lives Dave impacted to the glory of God.

    1. Martha Baltazar says:

      Pstr. David lived a life for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He helped and reached out to the ones God had sent to him and did his best in enriching lives for God’s glory. I, myself grew up by leaps and bounds because he preached from his heart. He rests in the bosom of our Lord. To the family, I share their griefs, yet aware they are all united giving glory to God for their Dad. god’s will for speedy healing and strength be to Sister Wen.

  9. HooDatIS? says:

    let the church say amen
    what a wonderful man of God
    he got work to do in heaven, work on my brother
    visit my blog

    1. Alice Medina says:

      He was a true servant of the LORD. How the LORD used him in the life of Nicky Cruz and God knows how many more.
      My dondolences goes to his wife, children and Congregation. I’m praying for all of you.

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