billy james

Billy James Hargis

Billy James Hargis (August 3, 1925, Texarkana, Texas - November 27, 2004, Tulsa, Oklahoma) was a fundamentalist Protestant Christian evangelist who was one of the founding fathers of the Christian Right. At the height of his popularity in the 1950s and 1960s, his Christian Crusade ministry was broadcast on more than 500 radio stations and 250 television stations. He was disgraced after accusations of sexual misconduct from students at his American Christian College.

Biography

Hargis preached on the evils of sex education and Communism, and urged the return of prayer and Bible reading to public schools long before the modern Religious Right. He referred to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as revolutionary foundations of Marxism. He accused the government, media and pop culture figures — among whom he included the Beatles — of promoting Communism. (A subordinate, Rev. David Noebel, was the author of the 1965 work Communism, Hypnotism and the Beatles, which he expanded into Rhythm, Riots and Revolution the following year. Both books were published by Christian Crusade.)

Hargis alleged that John F. Kennedy was killed by a Communist conspiracy, gaining him notoriety in the immediate post-assassination media furor. Hargis was also a member of the John Birch Society, and making his pro-segregation stance clear, accusing Martin Luther King Jr. of being a Communist-educated traitor, and publishing James D. Bales's anti-King book ,The Martin Luther King Story. He urged his listeners to write to their Representatives and Senators, and was one of the first fundamentalist Christian personalities to urge his audiences to become politically involved , a tactic that was not lost on his successors.

Hargis targeted rural audiences with his pulpit-pounding, thunderous messages, and was not averse to engaging in publicity stunts such as his 1953 scheme to release 100,000 balloons, with Biblical quotations attached to them, across the Iron Curtain into Communist countries. He was the author of at least 100 books, including The Far Left, and Why I Fight for a Christian America. In addition, his organization published an extremely influential pamphlet on sex education entitled Is the Classroom the Proper Place to Teach Raw Sex? by Gordon V. Drake, who worked very closely with him on his educational mission.

Hargis founded Christian Crusade in 1950, an interdenominational movement designed as a "Christian weapon against Communism and its godless allies." As a result, Hargis ran into trouble with the Internal Revenue Service, who removed his tax-exempt status, citing Hargis' involvement in political matters.

He also founded the David Livingstone Missionary Foundation, which operated hospitals, orphanages, leprosy villages, medical vans and mission services in South Korea, Hong Kong, India, the Philippines and Africa. Direct mail entrepreneur Richard Viguerie began his career working for Hargis.

Hargis had an indirect part in a United States Supreme Court ruling that affirmed the Fairness Doctrine in American broadcasting. In 1964, Hargis, who was a staunch supporter of Republican Senator Barry Goldwater in that year's presidential race, used his radio program to attack journalist Fred J. Cook, who had written a book that was sharply critical of Goldwater. Cook requested air time in order to deliver a rebuttal to Hargis' statements, but the broadcaster refused. The journalist took his case to court, and eventually the case went all the way to the Supreme Court. In 1969, the high court upheld the FCC's "equal-time provision" in Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. Federal Communications Commission, codifying what became known as the Fairness Doctrine.

Hargis formed American Christian College in 1971 in order to teach fundamentalist Christian principles. However, a sex scandal involving claims by two of his students. Hargis was forced out of American Christian College's presidency as a result. Further scandals erupted when members of Hargis' youth choir, the "All American Kids", accused Hargis of sexual misconduct as well. The college eventually closed down in the mid-1970s. Hargis always denied the allegations. Hargis retreated to Neosho, Missouri, where he continued to work, issuing daily and weekly radio broadcasts and a monthly newspaper, The Christian Crusade Newspaper, as well as authoring a number of books. He suffered from Alzheimer's disease in his final years, and died at age 79 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Legacy

His son, Billy James Hargis II, continues his ministry. Hargis' organization and school also started radio station KBJH (FM 98.5) in Tulsa in the early 1970s. After the schools closing and the demise of his ministry, the station was sold to Epperson Broadcasting. He and his church owned and operated a small AM radio station in Port Neches, Texas up until the early 1990s. KDLF radio (so named after the David Livingston Foundation) played Southern Gospel Music and religious programming until it was sold around 1993. In the latter days of his ownership, the radio station was independently managed but required to play Hargis' hour-long program daily.

References

  • John H. Redekop, The American Far Right: A case study of Billy James Hargis and Christian Crusade, William B. Eerdmans (1968).

External links

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