Hammond native David Ray Wilkerson was a Christian evangelist, who was well known for his book, "The Cross and the Switchblade," which describes his early ministry work with young drug addicts and gang members in Manhattan.
"The story has been read by over 15 million people in some 30 languages since 1962," according to World Challenge, the ministry he founded in 1971.
"In 1970, a Hollywood motion picture of the same title was released and has been viewed by over 50 million people in 30 languages in 15 countries."
Wilkerson was moved to begin the New York ministry after seeing a photograph in Life magazine of several teenagers from the city charged with murder, according to World Challenge. He soon after began his street ministry.
He founded Teen Challenge ministries in Brooklyn a year later, which is said to have reached "youth and adults with life-controlling problems worldwide through over 1,000 centers in 82 countries," according to World Challenge.
"The ministry's biblically based recovery program for drug addicts has been recognized as one of the most effective efforts of its kind."
Wilkerson opened the Times Square Church in 1987, traveled extensively and authored more than 30 books.
He posted a devotional blog on April 27, 2011, saying, "To those going through the valley and shadow of death, hear this word: Weeping will last through some dark, awful nights, and in that darkness you will soon hear the Father whisper, 'I am with you. I cannot tell you why right now, but one day it will make sense. You will see it was all part of my plan. It was no accident.' "
Wilkerson was killed in a car accident that afternoon.