HAROLD MARSHALL SYLVESTER RICHARDS (1894-1985).Dr. H. M. S. Richards, founder of the Voice of Prophecy radio broadcast, was born in Davis City, Iowa. Both his father, Halbert M. J. Richards, and his paternal grandfather were ministers of the gospel. As a young boy, Harold decided that he, too, would devote his life to preaching the gospel. Young Richards got a taste of evangelistic work during a summer vacation when he helped his father in an evangelistic campaign. After his high school graduation from Campion Academy in Colorado in 1914, he conducted his first series of gospel meetings in a little hamlet far up the side of Pikes Peak.
Harold attended Washington Missionary College (now Columbia Union College) in Takoma Park, Maryland, from which he graduated in 1919. His first official ministerial assignment was Ottawa, Canada, where he met a young schoolteacher, Mabel Annabel Eastman. After a brief courtship, they were married in 1920.
It was also in 1920 that H. M. S. Richards first conceived the idea of broadcasting the Christian gospel over the airwaves. This dream was not to be realized until nearly 10 years later. Meanwhile, the young evangelist's ministry was successful, his presentation of great Bible themes often drawing large audiences.
In 1926 Pastor and Mrs. Richards were called to California, where they conducted successful evangelistic meetings in Fresno, Bakersfield, Lodi, Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Diego, and other cities.
Pastor Richards experimented with radio announcements in connection with his evangelistic meetings in central California in the late 1920s, but his regular broadcasts were not until 1929, when KNX in Los Angeles and other stations aired without charge his and other ministers' "Family Worship" programs. During an evangelist meeting series in Huntington Park, Richards' daily live broadcasts of "The Tabernacle of the Air" went over KGER in Long Beach, and a remote wire from his tabernacle to KMPC in Beverly Hills enabled him to do a weekly program also. His radio headquarters was in a renovated chicken coop at the back of his garage.
In January 1937, the program expanded over a network of several stations of the Don Lee Broadcasting System, and that year the name of the broadcast was changed to the Voice of Prophecy.
Dr. Richards often said that perhaps the greatest thrill of his entire ministry was his first coast-to-coast broadcast over 89 stations of the Mutual Broadcasting System on Sunday, January 4, 1942.
The following month, the first national Seventh-day Adventist Bible correspondence school was begun. Since then, nearly one million people have been graduated from the North American headquarters school alone.
Inspired by the example of Richards, dozens of Adventist ministers around the world began Voice of Prophecy (or Voice of Hope) broadcasts in 36 languages. Their gospel ministry on more than 1100 stations is complemented by Bible courses in 80 languages offered by 144 correspondence schools.
Refusing fame for himself, Richards sought only to make Christ known to the millions around the world. His dedicated ministry was recognized by fellow broadcasters, who presented him the Honor Citation of the National Religious Broadcasters organization in both 1967 and 1970. Andrews University conferred an honorary doctorate on him in 1960.
H. M. S. Richards Jr., evangelist and pastor in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was invited to assist his father in 1960. In 1969, at the age of 75 years, Dr. H. M. S. Richards retired from his position of full-time leadership in the Voice of Prophecy. For the next 16 years until his death in 1985, he assisted his son, who was appointed director-speaker. H. M. S. Richards Jr. served as director-speaker until the end of 1992, when Lonnie Melashenko was appointed to that position and Pastor Richards became speaker emeritus.
Dr. and Mrs. H. M. S. Richards had three other children. Virginia (Cason), their oldest, has written many songs for children, has her own weekly radio broadcast on KCDS at Pacific Union College, and is widely known as a public speaker.Kenneth E. H. Richards, their second son, an ordained minister, joined the VOP in 1974 as a researcher and since 1986 has been associate speaker. The youngest son, "Jan," holds an advanced degree in philosophy and is a university teacher in California.
A tireless reader and scholar, Dr. Richards is remembered as a diligent student of the Bible, and was rarely found without one in his pocket. He constantly searched for useful information in many fields of knowledge. In his own unique way, he used what he found in his always fresh and vibrant messages to reach the hearts of men and women.
Because of his spirit-filled preaching, he was much in demand as a speaker at camp meetings and other large gatherings throughout the world. His audiences always left with a deep feeling that they had sensed the presence of Jesus. He became a role model of Christ-centered preaching to ministers around the world. He had the ability to inspire ministers, and he received numerous invitations to talk to groups of ministers.
A visit to Pastor Richards' home library revealed a book lover's paradise. The walls were lined with books from floor to ceiling, with a double stack through the middle of the room. Many radio sermons, as well as thousands of verses of his poem, "Have Faith in God," heard weekly on the Voice of Prophecy broadcast, were written there.
In addition to the hundreds of radio sermons printed in booklet form by the Voice of Prophecy, Dr. Richards authored dozen of booklets and several full-size books, including The Indispensable Man, Promises of God, What Jesus Said, Feed My Sheep, Look to the Stars, Why I Am a Seventh-day Adventist, One World, Revival Sermons, and Day After Tomorrow. His own life story is told in a book by his daughter, Man Alive, and in H.M.S. Richards: A Biography by Robert E. Edwards.
biography written by Bob Edwards