This is the grave of Billy James Hargis.
One of the most disgusting human beings to ever poison this nation, Hargis is my Christmas present to LGM readers.
Born in 1925 in Texarkana, Arkansas, Hargis grew up poor. He was adopted by a railroad worker, but the family really did have no money and it was the Depression. Things were not good. Moreover, his adopted mother got very sick. He promised he would devote his life to Christ if her life was spared. She did survive. But I’m not sure Hargis’ life is exactly what Jesus had in mind.
The family was fundamentalist Christian and Hargis wouldn’t deviate from that, whatever else he chose to deviate from. He was ordained in the Disciples of Christ at the age of 17. He then went to Ozark Bible College in Bentonville, Arkansas, which was pre-Sam Walton turning that town into a Walmart hub/nostalgia freak show. He graduated and got a parish outside of Tulsa. In 1947, Hargis was preaching when he became very concerned that communism was going to overtake America. This became his passion. But let’s be clear here, for Hargis almost anything that was not right-wing extremism was communism. The New Deal? Most definitely communism. The CIO? You bet. How about Eisenhower? Well….pretty close to communism. He became close to Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society, who did believe Eisenhower was a commie. Hargis was a one-man lunatic railing through the halls of American religion pushing what was effectively fascism as the only alternative to big scary communism. As for civil rights…..Hargis was a race-baiter to the max, someone who saw integration as Satan, later taking national tours to denounce civil rights as a commie-Satanic plot.
In 1950, Hargis established the Christian Crusade to push his combination of evangelicalism and far-right politics. There was nothing too extreme for Hargis. For Hargis, the United States (at least his version of a racist free-market United States) represented all that was good in the world. It was literally God’s work incarnate. On the other hand, communism, which as we know Hargis defined just a bit broadly, was Satan. Given that, he saw himself as saving America and saving the Lord. That meant Martin Luther King was on the side of Satan, which he said repeatedly. He claimed that desegregation violated the 8th Amendment by being an unlawful taking of private property. I look forward to Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh adopting some Hargis legal theory pretty soon. In 1953, Hargis’ ministry took off when he went to the border between West and East Germany, tied thousands of Bible verses to balloons and sent them across the border to save the heathens from communism. This is the kind of thing the right-wingers loved.
By 1960, the FBI, which it must be said was the most racist agency in the federal government, investigated Hargis for bombing Little Rock public schools over integration, as well as plans to bomb Philander Smith College, a HBCU in Little Rock. Five bombs had ripped through Little Rock schools that year. They didn’t charge him due to a lack of evidence but it’s at quite plausible that Hargis was in fact involved in bombing Little Rock public schools over integration. The FBI had tracked him meeting with the actual bombers at a Memphis restaurant. This led to Bob Jones University granting Hargis an honorary doctorate in 1961. He also wrote The Negro Question: Communist Civil War Policy, in case you thought I was overstating his beliefs.
I have to show you how I first learned about Hargis. I used to live in Knoxville, Tennessee, back in the late 90s. There was a bookstore there that had all kinds of weird stuff. See, Knoxville has more than its share of right-wing nuts. Shortly before I moved there, in a small town about 10 miles north, there was a cross burning when an interracial couple moved into town. While I was there, about 8 months in or so, the front page of the Knoxville News-Sentinel featured a story about a custody battle between two sets of grandparents. See the parents of these orphans were snake-handler evangelicals and the snakes had killed both of them. So the custody battle was between the snake-handling grandparents and the non-snake handling grandparents. I remember saying at the time that if I had seen this the day I moved to Knoxville, I would have gotten in my car and driven back to Oregon. So….there were some interesting people there. Anyway, back to the bookstore. You’d find all sorts of lunacy there. I may still have my copy of the Holocaust denying “scholarly” journal I found there. But I definitely do have my copy of Hargis’ book The Far Left, which does not really discuss the far left but rather liberals and integrationists. Here’s the cover:
This cover made me laugh and laugh and laugh. Lady Liberty got stuck with a hammer and sickle sword! So I’ve been a bit interested in this complete lunatic ever since.
By the late 60s, Hargis was going even more insane. By this point, being a full-fledged conspiracy theorist, he believed that the rise of pop culture, especially rock and roll, was part of a government plot to destroy American values. His underling, a preacher named David Noebel wrote something called “Communism, Hypnotism and The Beatles” in 1965 that soon became a full book. Hargis felt that Billy Graham was a semi-communist Satanic sell-out because he was friend with that semi-communist Satanic sell-out Richard Nixon, who was way too far to the left for Hargis. He was naturally a big Goldwater fan in 1964 and the belief of right-wing extremists that the United Nations was a Satanic communist plot (do you see a trend here) and that the US needed to get out. He also saw sex education as Satan incarnate and authored another book on why it should be banned from schools. Now, who funded all of this? Hargis claimed much of his money came from Texas oil tycoons, which I 100% believe is the truth. In 1963, the Young Republicans of Los Angeles named Hargis “the greatest living American.”
It wasn’t only because of bombing schools that Hargis got in trouble. He also got in trouble from the IRS for using the Christian Crusade as a direct political mailing campaign. That made him a new ally–a young vile human named Richard Viguerie, king of the direct mailing campaign right-wingers, plague on the nation, and a man who unfortunately still lives today. For some damn reason, I was on a Viguerie e-mail list for awhile; it’s almost impossible to avoid this horrible man. So Viguerie helped Hargis avoid the IRS and get a more sophisticated campaign going with the reasonable positions of Martin Luther King as communist and desegregation violating the 8th Amendment, things like that. In fact, it was Hargis who made Viguerie a thing on the right, in case you think (which I don’t imagine you do) that ol’Billy James was some sort of freak show instead of a man creating the modern conservative movement.
In 1971, Hargis founded American Christian College in Tulsa. He said it would teach “anti-communism, anti-socialism, anti-welfare state, anti-Russia, anti-China, a literal interpretation of the Bible, and states’ rights.” OK then. He was one of the first evangelicals to see abortion as a Protestant issue, presaging the uniting of the evangelical and Catholic movements by 1980. He even had his own TV show as the right-wing preachers moved into television evangelists. It was called Billy James Hargis and his All-American Kids and I am sure was very, very, very special.
In 1974, the walls came crumbling down for Hargis. I don’t want you to be too shocked here on Christmas, but Hargis was a huge hypocrite in his personal life. He ran his college in Tulsa as his own personal sexual stable, forcing both male and female students to have sex with him. This killed both his career and his college, which closed in 1977 when he refused to hand over the reins to people who weren’t
schlepping fucking (ed. note: the goy should just use the crude Anglo-Saxon instead of the Yiddish) their students. He denied all of this for the rest of his life, but the evidence was overwhelming, collaborated by many students. So he retired to his farm in 1976 and ran what was left of his ministry. Of course his wife never left him during any of this. Take that for what you will.
Hargis died in 2005 of Alzheimer’s, at the age of 79.
Meanwhile, Hargis’ daughter Becky Frank served as the president of the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce, where she runs a consultancy to help clients such as Oral Roberts University through scandals. One of her top jobs was helping a megachurch there called Victory Christian Center through a scandal where a preacher raped a bunch of children. Hard to sum up the modern conservative movement better than that.
Billy James Hargis is buried in Memorial Park Cemetery. If you would like this series to visit other right-wing lunatics, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Maybe you feel like giving Erik Visits an American Grave a Christmas present as an exchange for this lovely present I gave you today! Seeing these graves costs a good bit of change after all!!! T. Coleman Andrews is in Richmond, Virginia, and Charles Coughlin is in Southfield, Michigan. Previous posts in this series are archived here.