While researching the history of Pentecostalism in Tulsa, I discovered many stories of women who shaped Pentecostalism in Oklahoma. Perhaps none was more important than Mildred Wicks, an important Pentecostal Holiness Revivalist who was recognized in the 1950s as the one of the greatest preachers and healing evangelists of the Healing Revival.
Mildred Wicks was born in New Mexico on May 3, 1913, but her family moved to Oklahoma where she grew up in Braggs near Fort Gibson. At age eighteen she was filled with the Holy Spirit at an Assemblies of God camp meeting on August 9, 1931. A few months later, Wicks preached her first revival in which nearly 200 people came to Christ. She was licensed under the Pentecostal Holiness Church as a pastor and evangelist and over the next decade she pastored churches across Oklahoma, including Woodville, Cromwell, Kiowa, and Westville.
On January 14, 1932, Mildred Horn married Albert Samuel Wicks. Sam was also born in Braggs, Oklahoma and was a newspaper publisher. He was well known in Oklahoma publishing, but his career always followed his more famous preacher wife. Wherever she went, Sam would follow and start a newspaper or buy the local paper.
In 1938, Mildred Wicks was chosen as pastor of the Pentecostal Holiness Church in Westville, a small town on the Eastern border of Oklahoma on the route from Siloam Springs to Muskogee. Oral Roberts’ father, Ellis Roberts, pastored the church for a year before Wicks came to be the pastor. Westville was also the home church of Evelyn Fahnstock who grew up in the church and later married Oral Roberts.
Mildred Wicks and Oral Roberts were good friends who grew up together as young ministers in Pentecostal Holiness circles in Oklahoma. When Roberts took his first pastorate in Fuquay Springs, North Carolina, he invited Wicks to come for a revival in March 1942. As one of her biggest fans, Roberts commented,
“I have never heard any better or more inspired preaching than was delivered by Sister Wicks. Her deeply spiritual ministry, her intensely prayerful life, her queenly walk and anointed sermons served to break down prejudice, indifference, lukewarmness and persecution and led the way for a soul ingathering revival.”
That revival in N.C. was crucial to Roberts’ early success as a pastor. Throughout the early 1940s, Wicks and Roberts were closely associated. When Roberts left Fuquay Springs in 1943, Wicks was named pastor. In September of that year Wicks became the pastor of the Pentecostal Holiness Church in Newnan, Georgia. When she left, Roberts followed her, as pastor for a few weeks until she returned as pastor.
In 1947, Roberts and Wicks teamed up for a turning point in both of their ministries. Roberts and Wicks were invited to hold a healing crusades in Newnan, Georgia, a church they both had pastored. The pastor called it “the greatest revival in the history of the Newnan church.” Together, they ministered to the crowd of over 700 people nightly, laying hands on the sick in a healing line that stretched around the building for hours. This service demonstrated that both would to be leaders in the healing ministry.
Shortly after, both Roberts and Wicks made their ministry home in Tulsa to itenerate in the healing ministry. Mildred’s husband Sam bought the West Tulsa based Tulsa Democrat paper and the Bixby Bulletin in 1949. Interestingly, The Bixby Bulletin was also previously owned in the 1920s by Richard Phillips who was a member of the Pentecostal church in Bixby, and Church of God of Apostolic Faith pastor and publisher O. H. Bond in the 1930s.
Oral Roberts would soon skyrocket to popularity, but did not forget his friend and companion. He would often promote Wicks in his magazine, Healing Waters. In 1950, Roberts said again of Wicks,
“Sister Wicks is perhaps the greatest woman preacher on the field today. She is a great soul-winner and mighty miracles of healing are wrought through her ministry.” (Healing Waters, Oct 1950)
By 1953, Wicks joined Gordon Lindsey’s Voice of Healing collective of Healing Revivalists as one of two women actively promoted in the Voice of Healing magazine. She was also touted as one of the “greatest women evangelists” by Jack Coe and the only female preacher he promoted.
For the next decade, Wicks traveled all over the South holding healing campaigns with tremendous miracles. During the 1960s-1970s as the Healing Revival started to wane, Wicks continued to preach and pastor in Texas, where she also broadcast a weekly television program on stations across Texas.
After her husband Samuel died in 1971, she returned near her old homestead in Fort Gibson, Oklahoma. There she founded Rainbow Mountain Church, an independent Pentecostal church located in the country on 90 acres. She continued to minister around the state. Wicks lived there until she passed away in 1998.
The life of Mildred Wicks demonstrates how important women are in the history of Pentecostalism. While not all Pentecostal denominations allow women to be pastors, as a member of the Pentecostal Holiness Church, Wicks served as pastor of many different congregations and a sought after revival speaker. But the fact that she was recognized by the inter-denominational Healing Movement is even more significant. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, she was on par if not exceeded the notoriety and significance of the men of the Healing Movement, such as Oral Roberts and Jack Coe. In fact, if it weren’t for Wicks teaming up with Oral Roberts in his early years, perhaps he would not have had the same early success and impact that allowed him to become America’s Healing Evangelist. To me, this makes Mildred Wicks one of the most important Pentecostal ministers of this era.
If you want to learn more about Oklahoma Pentecostal history, check out my book, Pentecost in Tulsa.