(NEXSTAR) – American publisher Larry Flynt, who turned “Hustler” magazine into a pornography empire, died at the age of 78 Wednesday, TMZ reports.
Sources told TMZ that Flynt died of heart failure Wednesday morning in Los Angeles.
Flynt, a self-described free speech activist, was involved in several high-profile legal cases over his publications. His story inspired the 1996 film “The People vs. Larry Flynt” in which he was portrayed by Woody Harrelson.
During an obscenity trial in March of 1978, a gunman named Joseph Paul Franklin shot Flynt as he returned to the Gwinnett County Courthouse, leaving him partially paralyzed. In later years, Flynt was photographed using a gold-plated wheelchair.
Flynt was connected to the southwest and central Virginia by a prominent lawsuit filed by the founder of the Moral Majority and Liberty University founder, Jerry Falwell, Sr.
In 1983, Flynt published a parody advertisement in his magazine of a famous alcohol ad which claimed Falwell drank alcohol before preaching and had an incestuous relationship with his mother.
Falwell sued in a case that was first heard in federal court in Roanoke for libel, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Even though the ad labeled itself as a parody and said, “not to be taken seriously,” the jury sided with Flynt on the libel charge but awarded Falwell $150,000 in damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Flynt is survived by wife Elizabeth Berrios as well as his five daughters and son, TMZ reports.