Billy James Hargis Papers (MC 1412)
Table of Contents
Billy James Hargis was born on August 3, 1925, in Texarkana, Texas, and adopted by Jimmie Earsel Hargis and Laura Lucille Hargis. He graduated from Texarkana High School and briefly attended Ozark Bible College in Bentonville, Arkansas, before dropping out to become a preacher. Ordained as a minister by the Disciples of Christ denomination while still a teenager, he later received a degree in theology from Burton College and Seminary in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He served as pastor to churches in Sallisaw, Oklahoma, and Granby, Missouri, before becoming pastor of First Christian Church in Sapulpa, Oklahoma, in 1948. In Sapulpa he began editing the Christian Echoes magazine and founded the Christian Echoes Hour radio. In November 1950 he resigned his position with First Christian Church to establish a national ministry, the Christian Crusade Against Communism. In 1951 he married Betty Jane Secrest; together they had four children.
Hargis became affiliated with Carl McIntire of Collingswood, New Jersey, the leader of the fundamentalist International Council of Christian Churches. From 1953 to 1958 Hargis directed that organization’s Bibles by Balloons Project, which launched scriptures tied to balloons in West Germany across the border into communist countries. Afterwards he returned to Oklahoma, choosing Tulsa as his ministry’s headquarters. By the early 1960s he produced programs that regularly ran on 250 television and 500 radio stations. In 1966 he founded the David Livingstone Missionary Foundation, which ran medical clinics and orphanages in Asia and Africa. In 1971 he founded American Christian College in Tulsa. During his career he authored more than 100 books, as well as countless articles for the Christian Crusade Weekly newspaper.
An ultraconservative minister, Hargis’s career was plagued with controversy. In addition to his anti-communist views, he was a supporter of racial segregation, and reputedly held anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic views. In the early 1960s the Internal Revenue Service determined that his work was political in nature and stripped his organization of its tax exempt status. Then comments Hargis made in 1964 caused an opposing journalist to demand equal time; denied this, the journalist filed suit, leading to the Supreme Court case Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC (1969) which affirmed the Fairness Doctrine. In 1968 Hargis launched an attack on sex education programs, only to be accused in 1974 of having sexual relations with both male and female students at his college. This controversy resulted in his writing an autobiography, My Great Mistake, published in 1985; he denied the allegations. The controversies, along with poor health and the effects of aging, eventually caused the decline of his ministry. Suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and following a series of heart attacks, Hargis died in Tulsa on November 27, 2004.
The collection includes materials on a wide range of subjects with an emphasis on the menace of communism, both foreign and domestic. The research and correspondence files of Allen Zoll and the New York-based National Council for American Education (NCAE) constitute a large portion of the Hargis Papers. The NCAE was an anti-communist watchdog organization active during the 1940s and 1950s. It compiled numerous files on alleged “Reds” in educational institutions, agitating for their dismissal from academic positions. In 1961 Zoll sold his files to Hargis, who used the NCAE files as the foundation for the Christian Crusade’s research files, which span the period ca. 1960-1980. Related materials acquired by Special Collections from the University of Michigan have been integrated into the collection.
The collection includes a large section on subjects such as the House Un-American Activities Committee, Joseph McCarthy, and related topics such as communism in American education. The collection includes materials related to the battle between fundamentalist and liberal churches, especially Carl McIntire’s campaign against ecumenicalism as represented by the National Council of Churches. Also included are materials pertaining to the upheavals of the 1960s, featuring materials on desegregation, the cultural revolution, and materials from radical student and black nationalist groups. The collection includes numerous materials on Rhodesia, South Africa, and the anti-apartheid movement in the 1970s. The collection includes an excellent collection of newspapers, with titles representing a diverse selection of groups. Right wing newspapers represent divergent groups featuring anti-labor, patriotic, fundamentalist Christian, neo-Nazi, and white supremacist viewpoints. Similarly, left wing newspapers include titles with ecumenical, anti-war, pro-labor, socialist, communist, radical student, and black nationalist viewpoints. Finally, materials include video and audio recordings of programs by Hargis.
Materials include correspondence, monographs, pamphlets, flyers, posters, newspapers, clippings, and other papers. The collection includes both video and audio tapes. The collection includes few photographs. Nine Billy James Hargis scapbooks have been microfilmed and the originals returned to the donor.
Todd E. Lewis, January 2009
186 boxes (117 linear ft)
- Series I. Billy James Hargis and the Christian Crusade. (Boxes 1-5)
- Series II. Domestic Policy and Issues. Boxes 6-82.
- Series III. Foreign Policy. (Boxes 83-110)
- Series I-III. Oversize and Other Materials. (Boxes 111-114; Microfilm Reels 1 and 2; Oversize Folders 1 and 2)
- Series IV. Newspapers. (Boxes 115-177)
- Series V. Audio and Video Materials. (Boxes 178-183; Film Reels 1-53)
- Fragile Materials. (Boxes 184-186)
Materials marked fragile may not be handled without permission.