Jerry Falwell Jr
- Category : Entertainment-TV-host-Personality
- Type : GE
- Profile : 1/3 - Investigating / Martyr
- Definition : Split - Large
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Explanation 3
American pastor, promoter of TV evangelism and political lobbyist for the Moral Majority, Inc.
He had a six-figure income, lived in a 12-room mansion and enjoyed such perks as his own jet and travel expenses for "The Old Time Gospel Hour."
The family history in Virginia dating back to 1669 is a colorful, sweeping, almost biblical tale that includes financial success and murder, atheism and profound religious conviction, sin and atonement. Jerry and his twin, Eugene, were the youngest children of Carey and Helen Falwell. Falwell’s paternal grandfather was a vocal atheist. Their father, Carey Falwell, was a wealthy entrepreneur, a businessman who owned grocery stores, service stations, restaurants, an oil company and a bus company and who later turned to bootlegging. Like his father before him, he had little use for religion and was reputed to have run a brothel. When Carey’s brother Garland, the proverbial "wild child," came to the family restaurant with guns drawn, Carey killed him. Although the murder was labeled self-defense, Carey was laden with guilt and died at age 55 of alcoholism, when Jerry and Eugene were only 15 years old. The twins and their older siblings, Lewis and Virginia, have credited their mom with instilling the old-time-religion in the family.
Falwell skipped second grade and earned a grade average of 98 in high school, also excelling in football, baseball, and basketball. Despite his good grades, he was barred from giving the valedictorian's speech at graduation because it was discovered that he and other athletes had obtained free lunches for a year by using counterfeit lunch tickets. He enrolled in Lynchburg College majoring in mechanical engineering and won a B.F. Goodrich citation for earning the highest grades in mathematics in his freshman year.
During his sophomore year on January 20, 1952 Jerry became a "born again" Christian when he and some friends attended a service conducted by the Rev. Paul Donnellson in Lynchburg, VA. The time as noted was 9:00 PM. Shortly thereafter he decided to transfer to the Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri, turning down an offer to play baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals. He graduated with a Doctor of Theology degree in 1956. On his return to Lynchburg, Falwell founded an independent Baptist church with funds totaling $1,000. The first service of the Thomas Road Baptist Church was held June 24, 1956 in an abandoned building owned by the Donald Duck Bottling Company, and first congregation consisted of 35 adults and their families. Falwell's energy and enthusiasm seemed unlimited. Besides his ministerial duties he performed maintenance, carpentry work, door-to-door campaigning and fund raising. He persuaded the building's owner to underwrite the church's purchase of the deteriorating building.
A week following the opening of the church Falwell started a half-hour daily radio program. Six months later he began his first television show where he could preach to the multitudes. By the end of the first year the church had 864 regular worshippers; by 1969, membership neared 10,000. In 1959 he set up the Elim Home for Alcoholics on a 165-acre farm; the Lynchburg Christian Academy in 1964; a bus ministry for people lacking transportation to attend service in 1969; a free summer camp for children, a Bible institute and a seminary. The church also undertook missionary and relief work, sending teams to Guatemala, Haiti, South Korea, Indochina, Australia and other locations around the world.
By 1971, the televised "Old-Time Gospel Hour" began to broadcast nationwide. In 1973, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a federal suit for "fraud and deceit" and "gross insolvency" after he sold over $6 million dollars worth of bonds to finance expansion of the church's education facilities, but the suit was dropped by a US District Court. Falwell's Lynchburg Baptist College became Liberty Baptist College, an accredited four-year liberal arts institution offering B.S. degrees in business administration, religion, communications, education, natural science and other fields. A new campus was built in 1977, the year that his mother died. She passed away on April 28th at 10:10 AM in Lynchburg, VA.
Doing an "about face" on becoming involved in issues of morality he began to expound on homosexuality. He helped singer Anita Bryant in her campaign to repeal an ordinance granting equal rights to homosexuals in Florida in 1977, taking a similar stand in California in 1978. He launched a "Clean Up America" campaign in May 1978 and a second in April 1979, highlighted by a mass rally on the steps of the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
In June 1979, Falwell founded Moral Majority, Inc. comprised of four units: education, lobbying, and endorsement of candidates and legal aid. At the 1980 Republican National Convention, the party adopted a platform encompassing many of Moral Majority's views including a historic turn away from the Equal Rights Amendment and a demand for a constitutional ban on abortion.
Falwell was unsuccessful in discouraging Ronald Reagan from selecting George Bush as his running mate. After Reagan's election on November 4, 1980, Falwell happily pointed out that Moral Majority had registered some 4,000,000 new voters and urged another 1,000,000 to go to the polls. On March 17, 1987 Falwell took advantage of the sex scandal surrounding Jim Bakker who had his own evangelical empire, the PTL. Falwell insisted he was asked to take over its leadership and did so out of his pastoral concern and fear that the sex scandal would damage all televangelists. A public feud erupted when Bakker later said Falwell was only to serve as "caretaker" of the organization. Falwell also accused Bakker of having homosexual trysts which Bakker vehemently denied.
Falwell's takeover of the debt-ridden PTL was short-lived when he resigned from the board October 8, 1987. An unfavorable ruling was made by the bankruptcy judge on October 7, 1987 who said that Falwell's reorganization plan did not take into account the wishes of creditors and PTL's "Lifetime Partners" (a plan whereby the partners contributed $1,000 in exchange for three nights per year at one of the PTL Heritage USA theme park's two hotels located in Fort Mill, SC).
Falwell met his future wife, Macel Pate, on January 20, 1952, the night of his conversion. She had been the pianist at the service. They married on April 12, 1958 and had three children, Jerry, Jr. born 1962, Jeannie and Jonathan. Falwell’s autobiography "Strength for the Journey" (1987) brought in a $1 million advance from Simon and Schuster. His youngest son Jonathan reported that his dad, even while living in a mansion, considered himself a local pastor from Lynchburg who came home, grabbed a soft drink and hot dog and watched boxing. One of Falwell’s colleagues described him as having a generous man with a “wicked sense of humor.” The reverend outdid himself after the terrorist attack in New York in September 2001, when he publicly blamed "the pagans, the abortionists, the feminists and the gays and lesbians for helping this happen, that God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of American to give us probably what we deserve."
On the morning of May 15, 2007, Falwell had breakfast with an administrator of Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA.
He was later found unconscious in his office and was pronounced dead at 12:40 PM EDT, age 73. He had been suffering from heart problems, the most likely cause of his death.