Wilbert Thomas Sr., convicted Ohio religious cult leader, dies at 91

The Rev. Wilbert Thomas Sr., a former Ohio minister who went to prison in the 1980s after being convicted of leading a religious cult, has died. 

The Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed Friday that Thomas, 91, died Wednesday at an Akron hospital.

Born in 1929, Thomas was a native of Waycross, Georgia, who was ordained as a Pentecostal minister. He founded the Christian Alliance Holiness Church in the late 1960s, establishing congregations in Ohio, Texas and Florida and later publishing a book of doctrine outlining the church’s control of its members.

“He had a lot of charisma,” a former congregant told the Akron Beacon Journal in the 1980s of Thomas, who declared himself bishop in 1979. “He was an eloquent speaker. He could make you believe. He was also an excellent musician. The children particularly loved the music and the singing.”

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