Rev. Jerry Falwell Dies, Leader of Evangelicals; Founder of Moral Majority Was 73

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 16, 2007 | Go to article overview

Rev. Jerry Falwell Dies, Leader of Evangelicals; Founder of Moral Majority Was 73


Byline: Ralph Z. Hallow and Audrey Hudson, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Rev. Jerry Falwell, one of the founders of the so-called religious right and a friend and ally of Republican presidents, died yesterday from a heart rhythm abnormality in his office on the campus of the Lynchburg university he founded. He was 73.

He was discovered in his office, unconscious and not breathing, by an aide when he did not attend a meeting at Liberty University, his doctor said.

Dr. Carl Moore, Mr. Falwell's physician, said he was found at 11:30 a.m. in his office without a heartbeat. Several efforts to resuscitate him in his office, en route to the hospital and at the hospital, were unsuccessful.

He was pronounced dead at 12:40 p.m.

"He was found without a pulse and never regained a pulse," Dr. Moore said. It is too soon to determine the exact cause of death, but Dr. Moore speculated that it was due to cardiac arrhythmia. "He [was] known to have a heart condition and this ... occurs without warning"

Mr. Falwell, a Southern Baptist, came to national and international prominence by using his leadership and entrepreneurial skills to combine religion and politics and forge an unprecedented electoral coalition.

President Bush said he and his wife, Laura, were "deeply saddened" by the loss of a man who "cherished faith, family and freedom."

"One of his lasting contributions was the establishment of Liberty University, where he taught young people to remain true to their convictions and rely upon God's word throughout each stage of their lives," Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Falwell formed the Moral Majority in 1979, which transformed U.S. politics by galvanizing long-dormant evangelical and fundamentalist Christians, who had largely ignored politics, and by bringing them into cooperative relations with conservative Catholics.

"I really think that it was the Equal Rights Amendment fight that got him going in the mid-1970s," Eagle Forum President Phyllis Schlafly said. "We did a rally together on the steps of the Capitol in Springfield, Illinois, in 1978, and he and I spoke. That's when he rallied the Baptists to join the conservative movement."

His religious contemporaries praised his leadership on learning of his death. The Rev. Billy Graham called Mr. Falwell "a close personal friend for many years. We did not always agree on everything, but I knew him to be a man of God." Chuck Colson, founder of the Prison Fellowship, said Mr. Falwell was often "unfairly caricatured," but "when the going got tough, Jerry just got stronger."

"Jerry has been a tower of strength on many of the moral issues which have confronted our nation," said Pat Robertson, a fellow evangelist and political activist. "Jerry's courage and strength of convictions will be sadly missed in this time of increasing moral relativism."

Douglas Brinkley, a professor of history at the University of New Orleans, told Fox News that the term "moral majority" was "building on Richard Nixon's 'silent majority', " in reaction to the '60s counterculture, including the loosening of laws and moral standards against abortion and homosexuality.

"Here was Reverend Falwell talking about issues: We don't believe in Roe v. Wade; we don't believe in all aspects of equal rights for homosexuals; we believe ... family values are being neglected"

Since then, no Republican has won his party's presidential nomination without first affirming the importance of religion in public life and claiming opposition to abortion and, more recently, same-sex "marriage." Ronald Reagan, George Bush and George W. Bush all declared themselves born-again Christians before seeking the presidency.

Free Congress Foundation President Paul M. Weyrich, a key founder of the coalition that brought religious conservatives into a new and muscular electoral coalition with economic and national-defense conservatives, said that Mr. …

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