Zig Ziglar Dies; Motivational Speaker Was 86

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Zig Ziglar, a motivational speaker who wrote more than 30 books on living a balanced life, and who built a huge following over his long life, has died in Texas.

He was 86. Ziglar, who had been suffering from pneumonia, passed away Wednesday at a hospital in the Dallas suburb of Plano, said his assistant, Jay Hellwig.

Zig Ziglar Photo

With an aim at helping people achieve success in both their careers and personal lives, in addition to a focus on Christianity, Ziglar was a prolific speaker.

He appeared at events alongside world leaders over the years, including several U.S. presidents and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

"Mr. Ziglar was the same guy behind the closed doors as he was preparing for his presentations to thousands of people that he was when sitting at the kitchen table," Hellwig said.

Ziglar started his fulltime career in motivational speaking when he was in his 40s. His first book, "See You at the Top," was published in 1975, when he was 49.

"He got saved at the age of 42, which means that he accepted Jesus Christ as his savior," Hellwig said. "Ever since that day is what he said was the turning point of his life."

"The last 41 years of his life he lived fully with that as his mission. He also had the uncanny ability to make everyone he ran into feel like they were his friend."

A World War II veteran from Yazoo City, Miss., he went to work in sales for a series of companies, where his interest in motivational speaking grew.

Ziglar's company, which features more than a dozen speakers advocating the "Ziglar Way" in his vein, offers motivation and performance training.

One of his many well-known books, "Confessions of a Grieving Christian," was written after the 1995 death of his oldest daughter, Suzan, at the age of 46.

Another daughter, Julie Ziglar Norman, co-wrote "Embrace the Struggle," a book that described how his life changed after he suffered a brain injury 2007.

In addition to his daughter, Ziglar is survived by his wife Jean, with whom he celebrated 66 years of marriage Monday; his son, Tom Ziglar; and daughter Cindy Oates.