Mary-Ellen-Strong-Gaines-Donna-SummerEvangelist, prophet and teacher Mary Ellen Strong, a pioneer in black media and marketing, died last week of heart failure at her California home. She was 91.

“She was the first in so many things,” said Jerrel Jones, her son. “She did have the pioneering spirit.”

Articulate and humorous, on numerous radio stations and television programs including The 700 Club, Strong's messages were delivered with the authority of knowing her secure position in Jesus Christ. She was a trailblazer for change and improvement across the globe; known to stand up with great boldness to rulers and laymen.

Born Mary Ellen Brady on June 4, 1921 in Milwaukee, Wis., she married James Strong, an attorney and U.S. diplomat to Gambia who worked with a number of major corporations, in 1970. He was a former marketing executive with the Kellogg Corp. After his death, she married Andrew Gaines, the father and manager of the late singer Donna Summer.

Strong was a businesswoman; pioneer publisher of newspapers and a national magazine; building contractor; and revitalizer and developer of depressed properties across America. Apostle Frederick K.C. Price, founder of Crenshaw Christian Center church and Ever Increasing Faith television ministries, ordained Strong in 1985.

She was known for her hospitality and delicious meals; her Gugi's Global Foods, a spice company whose products are sold in major grocery chains and on the Web, have been a welcome condiment on tables everywhere.

She was a lifelong Republican, honored by the U.S. Senatorial Inner Circle with The Presidential Medal of Freedom, which she treasured. She was a friend and confidant to several presidents and was known throughout the United States and abroad.

Strong was also a frequent speaker at renowned ministries including Abundant Living Family Church in Rancho Cucamonga and Hesperia, Crenshaw Christian Center in Los Angeles, Word of Faith in Detroit and Nashville, Believers Bible Christian Church in Atlanta and Norvel Hayes Ministries.

“Dr. Strong's heart to serve God's people was always the same whether she was ministering to one person, or to thousands,” said longtime friend Elois Watson. “Her passion was to see souls won to the body of Christ.”

Alveda C. King, niece of Martin Luther King Jr., said, “She was a friend and mentor to many, and will be remembered with love.”

Strong received numerous awards, accommodations, proclamations and citations.

Besides her son, Jones, Strong is survived by a daughter, Carolyn Wright, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A son, Douglas, preceded her in death.

Memorial services are set for Saturday, Dec. 8, at 11 a.m. at Word of Faith Family Worship Cathedral, 212 Riverside Pkwy in Austell, Ga. A memorial in California was held on Saturday.

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