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Jerry Falwell
Jerry Falwell portrait.jpg
Jerry Laymon Falwell

(1933-08-11)August 11, 1933
Died May 15, 2007(2007-05-15) (aged 73)
Lynchburg, Virginia, U.S.
Known for Founding the Moral Majority
Television The Old-Time Gospel Hour
Title President of Liberty University (1971–2007)
Political party Republican
Macel Pate
(m. 1958)
Children 3, including Jerry Jr. and Jonathan
Jerry Falwell
Ordained 1956
Congregations served Thomas Road Baptist Church

Jerry Laymon Falwell Sr. (August 11, 1933 – May 15, 2007) was an American 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, founded Liberty University in 1971, and co-founded the Moral Majority in 1979.

Early life and education

Falwell and his twin brother Gene were born in the Fairview Heights area of Lynchburg, Virginia, on August 11, 1933, the sons of Helen Virginia (née Beasley) and Carey Hezekiah Falwell. His father was an entrepreneur. His paternal grandfather was a staunch atheist. Falwell met Macel Pate on his first visit to Park Avenue Baptist Church in 1949, where she played piano. They married on April 12, 1958. The couple had sons Jerry Jr. (a lawyer, and former chancellor of Liberty University) and Jonathan (senior pastor at Thomas Road Baptist Church) and a daughter Jeannie (a surgeon).

Falwell and his wife had a close relationship, and she supported him throughout his career. The Falwells often appeared together in public. The Falwells were married nearly fifty years until his death.

He graduated from Brookville High School in Lynchburg, and from the then-unaccredited Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri, in 1956, where he enrolled in order to subvert Pate's relationship with her fiancé there. Falwell was later awarded three honorary doctorates: Doctor of Divinity from Tennessee Temple Theological Seminary, Doctor of Letters from California Graduate School of Theology, and Doctor of Laws from Central University in Seoul, South Korea.

Associated organizations

Ford B1710 NLGRF photo contact sheet (1976-09-30)(Gerald Ford Library) (cropped)
Falwell greeting President Gerald Ford in 1976

In 1956, aged 22, Falwell founded the Thomas Road Baptist Church. Originally located at 701 Thomas Road in Lynchburg, Virginia, with 35 members, the church became a megachurch. In the same year, he began The Old-Time Gospel Hour, a nationally syndicated radio and television ministry. When Falwell died, his son Jonathan became heir to his father's ministry, and took over as the senior pastor of the church. At this time, the weekly program's name was changed to Thomas Road Live.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Falwell spoke and campaigned against the civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. and the racial desegregation of public school systems by the US 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.

The Liberty Christian Academy is today recognized as an educational facility by the Commonwealth of Virginia through the Virginia State Board of Education, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and the Association of Christian Schools International.

In 1971, Falwell co-founded Liberty University with Elmer L. Towns. Liberty University offers over 350 accredited programs of study, with approximately 13,000 students on-campus and 90,000 online.

Social and political views

President Ronald Reagan and Jerry Falwell
Falwell with President Ronald Reagan in 1983
Bush Contact Sheet P19932 (cropped)
Falwell with President George H. W. Bush in 1991

Falwell strongly advocated beliefs and practices influenced by his version of biblical teachings. The church, Falwell asserted, was the cornerstone of a successful family. Not only was it a place for spiritual learning and guidance, it was also a gathering place for fellowship and socializing with like-minded individuals.

Falwell repeatedly denounced certain teachings in public schools and secular education in general, calling them breeding grounds for atheism, secularism, and humanism, which he claimed to be in contradiction with Christian morality. He advocated that the United States change its public education system by implementing a school voucher system which would allow parents to send their children to either public or private schools. In his book America Can Be Saved he wrote that "I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won't have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them."

Falwell condemned homosexuality as forbidden by the Bible. Gay rights groups called Falwell an "agent of intolerance" and "the founder of the anti-gay industry" for statements he had made and for campaigning against LGBT social movements.


Falwell died on May 15, 2007, at the age of 73.

After his death, his sons succeeded him at his two positions; Jerry Falwell Jr. took over as president of Liberty University while Jonathan Falwell became the senior pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church. His daughter, Jeannie F. Savas, is a surgeon.

See also

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