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Elvis' Stepbrother Strives to Serve His Own King

Ministry: Evangelist stresses that God is for people, espousing an 11th Commandment: 'Thou shalt be cool.'

June 07, 1997|MARTIN HENDERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Rick Stanley is 43, a year older than Elvis Presley when he died nearly 20 years ago.

That's important. Stanley, Presley's stepbrother, was the last family member to see Presley alive. In their final meeting, Presley told the young man he should listen to his girlfriend, who had prayed for his salvation.

Eight hours later, Presley was dead. Two months later, Stanley was born again.

Today, he's an ordained Southern Baptist minister who speaks almost every Sunday, someplace. Last week, he was at Chino High School for Friend Day, an event hosted by Inland Community Church in Chino, in front of a crowd of about 1,150.

"For some people, turning 40 is a big deal," said Stanley, who lives in Fayetteville, Ga., just outside Atlanta, with that girlfriend who became his wife, Robyn, and their two daughters. "But making it past 42--outliving Elvis--that was a big deal.

"I had 19 years to think about 42, and when I hit it, I was real careful driving, always a little more nervous when I got on flights. I was pretty fired up to make it to 43."

Fired up because Stanley can still do what he loves to do--touch people's lives.

"My spiritual gift is hanging out," said Stanley, who is a strong proponent of what he says should have been God's 11th Commandment: "Thou shalt be cool."

He practices what he calls Mother Teresa's style of ministry, meeting people where they are, "whether it's from a dysfunctional family dealing with addiction, someone who's locked up, ministers' kids, alcoholic dads."

"I get my message across that God's for you," Stanley said. "People hear that God loves them, but they don't seem to understand that God's for them."

Stanley wrote "The Touch of Two Kings" (T2K Inc., 1986), about growing up at Graceland and his salvation experience. He is working on a new project, "The Tale of Three Kings," which draws parallels among Presley, Martin Luther King and King David.

"[Stanley is] definitely one of the top evangelists around--his name maybe is not as well known as some of the others, but he's getting there," said Inland Community Church Associate Pastor Ken Williams. "He's a powerful evangelist. It won't be long until his name will be heard everywhere."

Williams said Stanley was invited to speak as part of an outreach event because the church wanted "to find someone who can bridge the gap between the world and Christians."

"People can relate to Elvis' name, and by relating to that, they can hear what God's done in Rick's life," Williams said.

As a child, Stanley said, he spent months in an orphanage while his mother, Dee, divorced his abusive father, and then married Vernon Presley--Elvis' father. Stanley was 5 when he and his brothers, Billy, 6, and David, 3, moved into Graceland.

He says he began touring with Elvis at 16, fell into a life of alcohol and street drugs that his stepbrother abhorred--heroin, cocaine and hallucinogens.

Stanley eventually graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1986 and has spoken at nearly 3,000 revivals and conferences in churches across America and Europe. He said his troubled past and connection to Elvis give him a hook to reach people of all ages.

Since getting his life in order, he has stood alongside Billy Graham, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and others.

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