Honoring the Legacy of Lonnie Rex through Scholarship
Southwestern Christian University wishes to extend our heartfelt and sincere condolences to Mrs. Betty Rex and the family of Dr. Lonnie R. Rex. Dr. Rex has served the International Pentecostal Holiness Church and the Pentecostal community at large for his entire life. Lonnie’s early connection to SCU, formerly Southwestern College, goes back to the late 1940’s. “The Southwestern family particularly recognizes Lonnie Rex as “Mr. Music” for his heart to develop the musical talents of young men and women,” President Tom Murray stated.
The early years of Southwestern reveal Dr. Rex’s giftings as he built and directed a choir that is still talked about today. His choir was the first musical touring group from Southwestern, embarking on their first tour in the summer of 1949. They traveled through the South-Central region and then up the East coast from Florida to Toronto, Canada, singing at churches and conventions. One of their major destinations was the General Conference in Tallahassee, Florida. This group was the precursor for the Great Life groups that performed for decades at Southwestern. In 2012, Dr. Rex returned to the Southwestern stage to lead the Hymn Singing during the Homecoming celebrations and has been recognized on several occasions by the college.
The students of Southwestern dedicated the 1951 Yearbook to Lonnie Rex. As a tribute to him they wrote, “…a young man who has set before us a gracious example of Christian living; whose sincere friendship has never failed to cheer us; whose musical ability has amazed us; whose sportsmanship has always inspired us; and whose keen sense of humor has afforded us constant delight.”
President Tom Murray is honored to announce two annual $2500.00 scholarships in memory of Dr. Lonnie Royce Rex.
“The scholarships will assist two deserving SCU students of outstanding intellect and impeccable character, who are committed to the service of others, and who show promise of becoming leaders capable of addressing important issues and challenges facing humanity, worldwide,” Dr. Murray stated. President Murray added, “Music majors will be given priority in the application process. Beyond his global recognition as a humanitarian, Dr. Rex was the epitome of a servant leader that used his musical giftings to increase the Kingdom and magnify God. It is my vision that the heart of Dr. Lonnie Rex will live on through the graduates of Southwestern Christian University.” Southwestern Christian University is extremely happy to have Dr. Rex’s daughter, Patricia Rex Carnes, as a member of the SCU Board of Trustees.
Lonnie Royce Rex was born in Caddo, Oklahoma, on May 11, 1928, to Robert L. and Lennie Cordie Rex. Robert L. turned 18 years of age two days before Lonnie was born so they both felt they grew up together and always had a very close relationship. Not long after Lonnie was born this young family moved to Oklahoma City and then Enid where his dad took his first fulltime pastorate. While in Enid, at the age of nine, Lonnie contracted polio in one leg. The struggle to recover from polio was intense and he eventually had to have the one leg shortened which left him with a permanent limp. He later stated that he felt this experience with polio helped to shape his life and ministry. It gave him the concern and compassion needed for the many humanitarian works he accomplished.
His parents resigned the Enid Church and purchased a large tent so they could evangelize and start churches. Lonnie traveled with his parents and helped provide the music for the services. Lonnie had one unique ministry. He collected empty beer bottles, cleaned them up, and set them on a table. He would fill each one with a little water and then “play” the beer bottles with Gospel music. People attending the tent meetings loved to hear the “sanctified” beer bottles.
Lonnie loved music and graduated from Oklahoma City University in music and pipe organ. At the time he was finishing his college degree, he was asked to be the choir director for a new Bible college, Southwestern College. He had a large choir and took them on their first choir tour to the east coast. Lonnie also became involved with the Stamps Music School in Dallas, Texas, and taught classes for several summers. Students from all over the United States attended this school. Lonnie held the following degrees: B.A., B.D., MDiv., D.D.
In the mid 1940s Lonnie met Betty Louise Sorrells and they married April 8, 1949. They spent 72 years together in ministry. They were both concert pianists and performed in many churches and at many events all over the world. For a number of years both Lonnie and Betty participated in the general conventions for the Pentecostal Holiness Church, Betty at the piano and Lonnie leading 100+ member choirs each night. Lonnie served on various boards for the Pentecostal Holiness Church and was the first person to donate $100 to the Extension Loan Fund that his father started for the denomination.
For a time they lived in Washington, DC but then moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where they spent the majority of their lives. Through Lonnie’s musical and business abilities he served with some of the most notable ministers of the 20th century: Oral Roberts, T. L. Osborn, and Billy James Hargis. He was well known around the world for his abilities to set up non-profit organizations and assisted many ministers and organizations such as Rex Humbard, Mohammed Ali, and numerous others. On a personal level, Lonnie invested in a number of motels and office buildings and served on several secular boards: National Chiropractic Board and the Community Bank of Tulsa Board.
In 1981, Lonnie formed the David Livingstone Missionary Foundation and through this organization he worked in almost every country establishing schools, hospitals, orphanages, feeding programs, and disaster/humanitarian relief to name a few. He connected with world leaders such as Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa, Mikhail Gorbachev, Presidents George H. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, John Osteen, Vladimir V Putin, to name a few.
His adventures led him into harm’s way on occasion. He was arrested in Ghana for attempting to overthrow the government when he was bringing a moped to a leper colony. He played James Bond traveling up and down the Nile River and throughout Europe while bringing two C-47 planes of food for Armenia. He was invited to North Korea three times when no American politician could enter. He became friends with Cardinal Wojtyla, later known as Pope John Paul II, while delivering milk to Poland’s children. Vladimir Putin was his KGB agent following Lonnie around in the former Soviet Union while he assisted Mikhail Gorbachev with a number of humanitarian efforts. He visited the refugee camps of the Ethiopian Coptic Christians where babies were born too weak to cry. He told the world their story. He provided cleft lip surgery for over 3,000 children in the Philippines who could not afford it. He received South Korea’s highest honor they could bestow on a non-Korean. He was knighted by the Russian Orthodox Church.
Following retirement Lonnie and Betty moved to Spring, Texas where they became involved with Glorious Way Church. Lonnie also became involved with the Independent Christian Churches International and became Bishop Emeritus. He was instrumental in other ministries including the formation of Moms Against Hunger and the Community Bible Institute. He was also serving as a board member of the Oral Robert’s Evangelistic Association.
Lonnie is survived by his wife, Betty Louise, and three children: Royce DeWayne Rex, Patricia Louise Carnes (David), and Debra Kaye Parker (Cliff). They have 10 grandchildren: Ryan Rex, Greg Rex, Summer Rex, and Steve Rex (Nikki); Patrick Carnes (Angel); and Mitchell Bowen, Garrett Bowen (Jilliane), Connor Bowen, Cory Parker (Amanda) and Philip Parker (Kymberly) plus twelve great grandchildren. A sister, LaDonna Scott, also survives with three children: Kimberly Rice (Stephen), Kristen Welch (Jerry), and Kyle Scott (Anitra) and eight great nieces and nephews.