Nazis, Communists, Klansmen, and Others on the Fringe: Political Extremism in America

By John George; Laird Wilcox | Go to book overview

20 Reverend Billy James Hargis
and His Christian Crusade

God called me for this service. I did not choose it; God called me. It is nothing short of miraculous the way the Lord has used my friends and my enemies to create the ministry of Christian Crusade.

Billy James Hargis1

The large, well-dressed black man at the podium arranged his notes carefully before looking around at the auditorium filled with attentive white faces. Introductory remarks concluded, he began to attack prominent black organizations and leaders. Swelling applause and enthusiastic amens came from the audience, hungry for his startling pronouncements. The purpose of the pro-Communist civil rights movement, the speaker declared, had been to create hatred between Negro and Caucasian Americans and to destroy the free enterprise system.

The speaker was Dr. Donald Jackson of Buffalo, New York; the place, the large central auditorium of the Christian Crusade Cathedral in Tulsa, Oklahoma; the occasion, the annual national convention of Reverend Dr. Billy James Hargis's Christian Crusade; and the date was August 1, 1970.

Outside, in the stifling 104-degree temperature, traffic jammed Sheridan Avenue, which separates the large cathedral from the construction site of Hargis's American Christian College. Signs directing visitors from all parts of the country flanked the streets and entrances to the cathedral parking lot, filled to overflowing with cars bearing license plates from such places as California, Florida, and Montana. Although a few pickup trucks could be seen, the parking lot was packed mostly with expensive, late-model automobiles, emblazoned with flag decals and bumper-sticker slogans of the far right.

Up the wide steps leading to the cathedral entrance, late-arriving groups of middle-aged visitors passed between two large eagles, poised wings akimbo like Old Testament cherubim, guarding the cathedral's "God and Country" treasures from the "Satanic forces" Hargis had inveighed against for more than two decades. Just inside the double-doored entrance, visitors moved across the wide, curving foyer, past the registration desk into the rear of the auditorium, where Donald Jackson was now well into his speech.

Jackson's voice was piped into all parts of the cathedral through an elaborate sound system. Many first-time pilgrims to the Christian Crusade International Headquarters listened while they paused in the foyer to view the religious and

-201-

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