DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – He was a motivational speaker, author and American icon. Zig Ziglar has died at age 86.

Nobody could use self-deprecation to get his point across like Ziglar. “By choice I weighed well over 200 pounds. I say by choice because you see, I have never accidentally eaten anything,” he once said.

Ziglar died today in Dallas, after a brief bout with pneumonia.

A statement posted on Ziglar’s Facebook page said, in part –

Zig Ziglar passed from this world today after a short bout with pneumonia. Though his time on earth has ended, he is speaking with Jesus now in his heavenly home. The angels in heaven are rejoicing and his family is celebrating a life well lived.

Jay Hellwig spent years as Ziglar’s personal assistant.  From the headquarters in Plano, Ziglar’s life’s work, his books, his awards, all share the story of a salesman who earned his living helping others.

Hellwig says Ziglar’s religious faith stood as the foundation for it all.  “He was the master motivator.  He received Christ ast age 42, and from that day forward, changed his life.”

The World War II veteran was the son of a farm manager and worked his way up the sales ladder before moving to Dallas as vice president and training director at the Automotive Performance Company. He was also a mentor to Howard Putnam, CEO of both Braniff and Southwest Airlines.

“He almost created an industry by himself,” Putnam said. “You know he was a salesman, selling pots and pans, down in Yazoo, Mississippi or somewhere and got into speaking. So he was the first.”

Known as the father of motivational speaking, Ziglar wanted people to recognize their inner gifts, and show gratitude by helping others.

His gift?…finding a way to inspire.  “I really try to encourage others to be the best they can be,” he told CBS 11 in a 2006 interview.

Even into his 80s Ziglar continued to speak and looked for the positive, even in negative thinkers. He would joke, “Some people do really find fault like there’s a reward for it.”

In his later years Ziglar kept busy, teaching Sunday school classes at Prestonwood Baptist Church. Leaders at the church issued a statement that said, in part –

We have lost a giant of the faith who was able to connect Kingdom principles with professional life in a way that brought excellence, integrity and productivity to the workplace in the name of Jesus Christ.

On Wednesday, Zeglar’s pastor, Jack Graham, called Ziglar the great motivator. “He was a dispenser of hope, joy and a whole lot of love.”

A memorial service for Ziglar will be held here at Prestonwood on Saturday at 11am.

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