May 18, 2007
Portrait of a family: Husband, father and proud “Poppy” to eight children
by Amy Field
Falwell met his future wife, then Macel Pate, at Park Avenue Baptist Church when she was 18 years old and a senior at Lynchburg’s E.C. Glass High School. His first glimpse of her was on the night he was saved, as she played piano for the service that evening. According to Falwell’s autobiography, not long afterwards he fell in love with her.
However, it was too soon after Falwell’s conversion to Christianity for Macel to be sure about the sincerity of his faith. In addition to that, because of his reputation as a Falwell, Macel initially shied away from his advances. Her childhood was quite the opposite of Falwell’s, living with a tightly-knit family with parents who were lovingly over-protective of their daughter.
In the end, Falwell’s persistence and the evidence that his life had truly been changed by God’s work in his life eventually convinced Macel.
Falwell and Macel tied the knot on April 12, 1958. In 2007, they celebrated 49 years of marriage.
“Macel likes order… her sense of timing and order has been her lifetime gift to me… In fact, it was Macel whose sense of order and timing helped me learn to preach… my best improvement came when Macel listened to me,” Falwell wrote in his autobiography.
As a father, Falwell wanted to make sure that his children grew up in a Christian environment where biblical values were always observed. He was often heard to talk about his and his wife’s parenting styles, as he did in one of his sermons on May 11, 1997.
“At the very beginning of our marriage, Macel and I determined that our greatest achievement would be our children,” he said. “Nearly 40 years later, that is still our commitment, except the grandchildren have now been added to the priority list.
“Macel and I have never had alcohol in our home. Our children and grandchildren have never seen a cigarette in our mouths. We don’t use bad language. We don’t dance. We have never taken them to a movie. That doesn’t mean that it is wrong for parents to take their children to movies. But they should be very careful in selecting the movies they attend.”
Falwell’s commitment to his children and family was evident in the way that he paid attention to details in family matters.
All three of Falwell’s children attended and graduated from Fal-well’s Liberty Christian Academy and Liberty Uni-versity before going on to different schools and vocations.
Jerry Jr. earned his J.D. at the University of Virginia School of Law after graduating from Liberty with a B.A. in History and Religious Studies. He has served as general counsel to Liberty as well as the vice chancellor of the university until now, where he will assume his father’s position as chancellor. In “An Incredible Journey,” a commemorative book of the years Falwell spent building Thomas Road Baptist Church and Liberty University, Jerry Jr. expressed what he thought of his father’s accomplishments.
“It is truly incredible what God has done through my father’s ministry on Liberty Mountain in Lynchburg and across the nation, but as amazing as the impact for God has been, I really cannot say that surprises me,” he wrote.
Jeannie graduated from Liberty as well. She then went to the Medical College of Virginia and is currently a surgeon in Richmond, Va.
Jeannie also used “An Incredible Journey” to record one of her favorite memories of her father, which happened to be a tradition he started when she was a child.
“As a pastor, Dad frequently officiates weddings. Whenever I come home, I’ll still find a flower – Dad’s lapel flower from the wedding – stowed in the refrigerator for me,” she wrote.
Jonathan, the youngest of the three, will step up to the position of senior pastor at Thomas Road Baptist Church. After graduating from Liberty, Jonathan was ordained as a pastor. He also recorded the kind of impact his father had on his life when he was young.
“I was born in 1966, ten years after TRBC was founded, so I was not around in those early days. However, from as far back as I can remember, my memories of Dad are of a man who was fully committed to doing everything he possibly could to further the gospel of Jesus Christ,” he wrote in “An Incredible Journey.”
Whether in the pulpit or at home, Falwell’s dedication to family has proven itself in his children and has continued down to their own children.?