Thomas Dexter Jakes (1957- )

Bishop T.D. Jakes
Courtesy Kadstos (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Bishop T.D. Jakes—megachurch pastor, best-selling author, playwright, and movie producer—was born Thomas Dexter Jakes on June 9, 1957, in South Charleston, West Virginia, to Ernest L. Jakes, Sr., owner of a janitorial service that had three offices and 52 employees, and Odith Patton Jakes, a home economics teacher who sold Avon products in her spare time. Jakes and his older siblings, Ernest L. Jakes, Jr., and Jacqueline Jakes Sedgwick were reared in Vandalia, West Virginia. As a child, he attended the segregated Vandalia Elementary School. It was here that he began preaching to imaginary congregations and developing an interest in the ministry. At Garnet High School, he was nicknamed “Bible Boy.” And by 17, he knew that he was called to preach. Jakes left school to be caregiving for his invalid father and mother. After receiving the General Education Development Certificate (GED), Jakes enrolled at West Virginia State University in 1976. He left, however, the following year.

Although raised a Baptist, Jakes joined the Greater Emanuel Gospel Tabernacle, a Pentecostal church in Charleston, West Virgina. In 1980 he founded the Temple of Faith Pentecostal Church in Montgomery, West Virginia while working at the Union Carbide plant. In 1981, Jakes married Serita Ann Jamison, director of women’s and children’s affairs at the Temple of Faith Church. They parented five children, Jermaine Jakes, Jamar Jakes, Sarah Jakes Roberts, Cora Jakes Coleman, and Thomas Dexter Jakes Jr. In 1985, Jakes received a Bachelor of Arts degree in biblical studies from Friends International Christian University in Merced, California. He was ordained into the Bishopric (his rank in the church) in 1987.

Jakes earned a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies in 1990 and a Doctor of Ministry in 1995. In 1991 Jakes received national notoriety when he broadcast his first sermon on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). One year later he preached to 12,000 at the Azusa Conference in Tulsa. In 1996 he left West Virginia to establish the Potter’s House (the name comes from Jeremiah 18), a multiracial, nondenominational megachurch in Dallas, Texas. Two years later he founded the Metroplex Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), a non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization that blossomed out of the need for the Potter’s House Prison Ministry.

In 2000, T. D. Jakes Ministries, which continues to provide ministries to the homeless and other underserved communities, including prisoners and substance abusers, grossed $19 million. In addition, the non-profit organization made relevant videos and audiotapes available.

At the 46th Grammy Awards at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, 2004, the Potter’s House Mass Choir won a Grammy in the category of Gospel Choir or Chorus Album for A Wing and a Prayer, which was recorded under Jakes’s direction. Jakes, who has received 13 honorary doctorates, has had close relationships with two US Presidents. In 2005, he accompanied George W. Bush when the President visited New Orleans to see the impact of Hurricane Katrina. In 2009, he led a morning prayer service for President Barack Obama at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, DC.

Bishop T.D. Jakes has authored 22 books, including Woman, Thou Art Loosed!, which sold more than one million copies, and he developed a ministry that includes laptop jacks and headphone hooks in the pews, study rooms, library, and a simultaneous translation room for non-English speakers. The Potter’s House church in Dallas holds 8,200 people, has 30,000 members, and a television program viewed by more than three million people globally.