Anyway, on with Billy. Billy James Hargis (1925-2004) was an American evangelist from an early age. He attended, for various brief terms, a number of Evangelical "colleges" and seminaries, one of which ordained him at the age of 17, after which he began a career of preaching his ignorant nonsense to the multitudes. By the early 1950's he had moved to radio, where he flourished for quite a number of years.
He also fancied himself to be a singer. Here's a picture of Billy from one of his albums.
I am deeply sorry to report that I couldn't find a single cut of his online, so you are relieved of the temptation to listen to what is undoubtedly one of the worst singers in human history. Reverb Nation, where is your duty to posterity?
His message, besides the usual right wing religious garbage, revolved around extreme anti-communism of the John Birch Society (of which he was a member) variety, a hatred of desegregation, and tinges of out and out racism and anti-Semitism; i.e. the standard building blocks out of which Conservatism is forged. In a statement in the 1970's, he described his positions as "anti-communism, anti-socialism, anti-welfare state, anti-Russia, anti-China, a literal interpretation of the Bible, and states' rights." He also was very active in the anti-abortion movement.
Here's a brief excerpt from his Wikipedia article describing his positions:
"Hargis believed national and world events were part of a cosmic struggle, where the ultimate actors were Christ and Satan. While communism represented the latter, the United States represented the former. He used this as justification for why the United States should return to what he believed were its founding Christian ideals. Hargis preached on cultural issues: against sex education and Communism, and for the return of prayer and Bible reading to public schools, long before the rise of the late 20th century Religious Right. His belief in conspiracy theories led to a belief that the government, the media, and pop culture figures were promoting "communism" in the late 1960s."
Here, for those of you who care, is a sample of Hargis in action, in which he rails against the Communists in the Kennedy administration. Watch if if you dare:
In 1950, Hargis founded an organization called the Christian Crusade, which was a forerunner of the Moral Majority and similar later groups which claimed to speak for the allegedly right wing Christian majority in the country. In 1964 this group was stripped of its tax exempt status because of its obvious political nature; would that Federal authorities today would have the sense to do the same with the hundreds of phony 501(c)3 "charities" currently operated by right wing con men.
During the fifties and sixties. Hargis formed alliances with other right wing luminaries of the time, such as Major General Edwin Walker, who served as a liaison between Hargis' organizations and various right wing politicians (e.g. Joe McCarthy) before being arrested for fomenting riots in 1962 to prevent the admission of James Meredith into the University of Mississippi, and then (inevitably, I guess) being arrested twice for propositioning undercover policemen for sex in a park bathroom; and the Reverend Carl McIntyre, a popular wingnut preacher in the 1960's who appeared on the legendary radio station KXEL, and who has always been a favorite of mine.
Hargis also founded American Christian College in Tulsa, and ran it for a number of years, before he (God, this story gets old, doesn't it?) at near the age of 50, was accused by a number of students, both male and female, of manipulating them into sexual encounters. The college collapsed soon after that. As a beloved figure in right wing Tulsa, he was allowed to plead no contest to one count, after which he of course denied for the rest of his life that he had done a thing wrong.
Kind of makes you wonder what Hargis and General Walker got up to on those cold Tulsa nights, huh?
In the sixties, Hargis tried to latch onto various cultural phenomena, for example accusing the Beatles of being Communists in a book, here credited to his co-leader of the Christian Crusade:
and spreading ludicrous fantasies about the peace symbol:
As a final note, let me add that the direct mail king Richard Viguere, one of the most important characters in the rise of the new right, and a seminal figure in the stripping of the right wing lust for power of any remaining shreds of values or morality, got his start working for Hargis. Viguere is such an important figure that I will write a piece on him soon; I actually started on it before deciding to do a couple more earlier figures first.
So there you go; another step down to hell for the American right. More to come soon.