McGee, John Vernon (1904–1988)

By: H. Allen Anderson

Type: Biography

Published: April 1, 1995

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John Vernon McGee, radio evangelist, was born on June 17, 1904, in Hillsboro, Texas, the son of John Gaston and Carrie Belle (Lingner) McGee. He grew up in a strong Presbyterian environment and decided to go into the ministry. He worked for several years to earn the necessary funds for his college and seminary education. In 1930 he took his A.B. from Southwestern University in Memphis, Tennessee. His first pastorate was at Decatur, Georgia, where he was ordained a minister; he received his B.D. from Columbia Theological Seminary in 1933. After pastoring in Nashville, Tennessee, McGee moved back to Texas and entered Dallas Theological Seminary, where he received his Th.M. in 1937 and Th.D. in 1940. During that time he married Ruth Jordan. They had two daughters, one of whom died in infancy.

McGee was pastor of the First Presbyterian Church at Cleburne in 1941 when he accepted a call to the Lincoln Avenue Presbyterian Church in Pasadena, California. There he started his first radio program, "The Open Bible Hour." In 1949 he began his pastorate at the interdenominational Church of the Open Door in downtown Los Angeles. During his twenty-one-year tenure there he served for several years as head of the English Bible Department of the Los Angeles Bible Institute and was a visiting lecturer at Dallas Theological Seminary. After retiring from his pastorate in 1970, he set up radio headquarters in Pasadena. Over the next few years his full-time radio ministry expanded rapidly to some 1,200 broadcasts each day. With the help of Trans-World Radio, McGee's programs were transmitted worldwide in several foreign languages. He was honored by churches and interdenominational Christian organizations and was in demand as a guest speaker. In 1965 he survived a radical cancer operation, after which doctors gave him six months to live. He died on December 1, 1988, and was buried in Pasadena. At the time of his death, his "Thru the Bible" program was being broadcast daily over some 600 stations throughout the United States and Canada and in thirty-five languages around the world.


  • Religion
  • Presbyterian


  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

H. Allen Anderson, “McGee, John Vernon,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 20, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 1, 1995

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