MEMPHIS -- The Rev. Adrian Rogers, a three-time president of the Southern Baptist Convention and a leader of a conservative takeover of the denomination, the nation's second largest, died Tuesday in Memphis. He was 74.
Rev. Rogers was hospitalized this month with pneumonia and cancer, his ministry's website said.
''A mighty oak has fallen in God's forest," fellow Baptist leader Jerry Falwell said.
''He began the theological and spiritual renaissance that brought the largest Protestant denomination back to its original roots and commitment to the Bible," Falwell said from Lynchburg, Va., where he directs Jerry Falwell Ministries.
Rev. Rogers was elected president in 1979 as part of the conservative takeover of the 16.3 million-member convention, which is second in terms of membership to the Roman Catholic Church in the United States.
Rev. Rogers's election turned out to be a watershed moment for the denomination.
The conservative movement the Rev. Rogers helped lead pushed the denomination to stronger political opposition to abortion, homosexuality, and the ordination of female pastors, said Bob Allen, a writer and commentator for the Baptist Center for Ethics, an independent Baptist organization based in Nashville.
''The Southern Baptist Convention today would be part of the religious right and 20 years ago it would have been more mainstream," Allen said. ''I think it would also be fair to say the conservatives have developed pretty strong ties to the Republican Party."
In 1992, Southern Baptists who called themselves moderates broke away and formed the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
Although the Rev. Rogers was less well-known outside the church than some other Baptist leaders, ''no one has been more influential inside the Southern Baptist Convention," Allen said.
He was pastor of the 28,000-member Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis for 32 years, retiring in March.
''There's no one in this country I respect more than Adrian Rogers," Focus on the Family's Dr. James Dobson said on Rev. Rogers's last day as pastor. ''You draw me to Christ. When I'm with you, I feel closer to the Lord."
Among those who attended Rev. Rogers's final sermon were Senator Lamar Alexander, a Republican, and Representative Harold Ford Jr., a Democrat, both of Tennessee.
During his career, Rev. Rogers conducted evangelistic efforts in South Korea, Israel, Russia, Romania, and in Central and South America. In 2003 he was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the National Religious Broadcasters.
The Rev. Rogers leaves his wife, Joyce, four children, and nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.