Phelps died of natural causes in Kansas at 11:15 p.m. on Wednesday night at Midland Hospice in Topeka.
His death comes just days after hisr son, Nate Phelps, took to his own Facebook page to announce that his father was “on the edge of death”.
Nate Phelps, who left the extreme Christian sect 37 years ago, stated, “I feel sad for all the hurt he’s caused so many. I feel sad for those who will lose the grandfather and father they loved. And I’m bitterly angry that my family is blocking the family members who left from seeing him, and saying their good-byes.”
On Thursday, his granddaughter Libby, who has left the church, wrote on her Facebook page, “RIP, Gramps. I love you forever. I’m so sorry for the harm he caused. That we all caused. But he could be so kind and wonderful. I wish you all could have seen that, too. I understand those who don’t mourn his loss, but I’m thankful for those who see that ‘An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.'”
Sadly, his death does not mean the end of Westboro Baptist Church. Earlier this week, a current church elder told WIBW that they need no leader because their head is Jesus Christ.
Phelps Sr. started the Westboro Baptist Church in 1955 and went on to earn a law degree at Washburn University in 1964.
He also worked as an award-winning civil rights attorney, but he was disbarred in 1979 after badgering a witness in what the Kansas Supreme Court called ‘a personal vendetta’. He lost his license to practice law in federal courts in 1989.
He became known for his crusading against gay people and his followers gained world-wide notoriety for picketing the funerals of US servicemen killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In an interview in 2010, Phelps explained that “the Lord Almighty called on me to preach. I don’t think this country can be saved, but I have a duty to preach it anyway. That’s the mission: to preach it even if that soldier’s widow doesn’t want you to. It’s irrelevant what she wants. My job is to preach it without timidity.”