(August 11, 1933 – May 15, 2007)
Jerry Lamon Falwell Sr. was an American Southern Baptist pastor, televangelist, and conservative activist. He was the founding pastor of the Thomas Road Baptist Church, a megachurch in Lynchburg, Virginia. He founded Lynchburg Christian Academy (now Liberty Christian Academy) in 1967 and Liberty University in 1971 and co-founded the Moral Majority in 1979.
On May 15, 2007, Jerry Falwell died suddenly of cardiac arrhythmia in his office at Liberty University at the age of 73. He was buried in the grounds of the university he founded.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Falwell spoke and campaigned against the U.S. civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. and the racial desegregation of public school systems by the U.S. federal government. Liberty Christian Academy (LCA, founded as Lynchburg Christian Academy) is a Christian school in Lynchburg which was described in 1966 by the Lynchburg News as "a private school for white students."
The Lynchburg Christian Academy later opened in 1967 by Falwell as a segregation academy and as a ministry of Thomas Road Baptist Church.
In speaking of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, he said, in 1958:
"If Chief Justice Warren and his associates had known God's word and had desired to do the Lord's will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision would never had been made. The facilities should be separate. When God has drawn a line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line."
On his evangelist program The Old-Time Gospel Hour in the mid 1960s, Falwell regularly featured segregationist politicians like Lester Maddox and George Wallace.
About Martin Luther King he said:
"I do question the sincerity and nonviolent intentions of some civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. James Farmer, and others, who are known to have left-wing associations."
In 1977, Falwell supported Anita Bryant's campaign, which was called by its proponents "Save Our Children", to overturn an ordinance in Dade County, Florida prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and he supported a similar movement in California.
In the 1980s Falwell said that sanctions against the apartheid regime of South Africa would result in what, he felt, would be a worse situation, such as a Soviet-backed revolution. He drew the ire of many when he called Nobel Peace Prize winner and Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu a phony "as far as representing the black people of South Africa". He later apologized for that remark and claimed that he had misspoken. He also urged his followers to buy up gold Krugerrands and push U.S. "reinvestment" in South Africa.
In 1994, Falwell promoted and distributed the video documentary The Clinton Chronicles: An Investigation into the Alleged Criminal Activities of Bill Clinton. The video purported to connect Bill Clinton to a murder conspiracy involving Vince Foster, James McDougall, Ron Brown, and a cocaine-smuggling operation. The theory was discredited, but nonetheless the recording sold more than 150,000 copies.
Funding for the film was provided by "Citizens for Honest Government", to which Falwell paid $200,000 in 1994 and 1995. In 1995 Citizens for Honest Government interviewed Arkansas state troopers Roger Perry and Larry Patterson regarding the murder conspiracy about Vincent Foster. Perry and Patterson also gave information regarding the allegations in the Paula Jones affair.
The infomercial for the 80-minute videotape included footage of Falwell interviewing a silhouetted journalist who claimed to be afraid for his life. The journalist accused Clinton of orchestrating the deaths of several reporters and personal confidants who had gotten too close to his supposed illegal activities. The silhouetted journalist was subsequently revealed to be Patrick Matrisciana, the producer of the video and president of Citizens for Honest Government. "Obviously, I'm not an investigative reporter", Matrisciana admitted to investigative journalist Murray Waas. Later, Falwell seemed to back away from personally trusting the video. In an interview for the 2005 documentary The Hunting of the President, Falwell admitted, "to this day I do not know the accuracy of the claims made in The Clinton Chronicles."
In February 1999, an unsigned article that media outlets attributed to Falwell was published in the National Liberty Journal – a promotional publication of the university he founded – claimed that the purple Teletubby named Tinky Winky was intended as a gay role model. An article published in 1998 by the Salon website had noted Tinky Winky's status as a gay icon. In response, Steve Rice, spokesperson for Itsy Bitsy Entertainment, which licenses the Teletubbies in the United States, said, "I really find it absurd and kind of offensive." The UK show was aimed at pre-school children, but the article stated "he is purple – the gay pride color; and his antenna is shaped like a triangle – the gay-pride symbol". Apart from those characteristics Tinky Winky also carries a magic bag which the NLJ and Salon articles said was a purse. Falwell added that "role modeling the gay lifestyle is damaging to the moral lives of children".
Liberty University Campus
Lynchburg, Virginia, USA
Plot: Carter Glass mansion grounds