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Dr. Jerry Falwell – Biography

Dr. Jerry Falwell

Founder of Liberty University

Aug. 11, 1933 – May 15, 2007

In June of 1956, at the age of 22, Dr. Jerry Falwell started Thomas Road Baptist Church in his hometown of Lynchburg, Va., with 35 members. Also in 1956, Falwell began the “Old Time Gospel Hour,” a nationally syndicated radio and television ministry that has led millions to Christ.

In 1967, Falwell implemented his vision to build a Christian educational system for evangelical youth. He began with the establishment of Lynchburg Christian Academy, an accredited Christian day school for grades K-12. In 1971, he founded Liberty University, an accredited Christian university for evangelical believers. In 1985, Falwell announced his goal of 50,000 students.

Today his vision has been fulfilled, with more than 130,000 students from all 50 states and over 70 nations taking courses on Campus and Online.

Falwell may be best known outside Lynchburg for his political activism. In June 1979, he organized the Moral Majority, a conservative political lobbying group that was pro-life, pro-family, pro-Israel, and favored a strong national defense. The group chose California Governor Ronald Reagan as “their candidate” for the 1980 presidential election, registered millions of new voters, and mobilized a sleeping giant — 80 million Americans committed to faith, family and Judeo-Christian values.

Although he became a national figure, his passion was being a pastor and Christian educator. He often stated that his heartbeat was to “train young Champions for Christ” in every walk of life.

Falwell passed away on the morning of May 15, 2007, at the age of 73. He was married for 49 years to Macel Pate Falwell, who died in 2015 at the age of 82. Their three children are Jerry Jr., former president of Liberty University; Jonathan, senior pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church; and Jeannie, a surgeon. They have eight grandchildren.

Honorary Degrees

Tennessee Temple Theological Seminary, Doctor of Divinity
California Graduate School of Theology, Doctor of Letters
Central University, Seoul, Korea, Doctor of Laws

Vocations and Posts

Thomas Road Baptist Church: Founder and Senior Pastor, from 1956
Old Time Gospel Hour, Inc.: President from 1956
Elim Home for Alcoholics: from 1959
Lynchburg Christian Academy, K-12: from 1967
Liberty University: Chancellor from 1971
Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary: Chancellor from 1973
Liberty Bible Institute: Chancellor from 1972
Moral Majority, Inc.: 1979-1989
Liberty Godparent Home for Unwed Mothers: from 1982
Liberty Broadcasting Network: President from 1985
Clergyman of the Year in America, Religious Heritage of America, 1979
Jabotinsky Centennial Medal, for friendship to Israel; presented by Prime Minister Menachem Begin, 1980
Christian Humanitarian of the Year, Food for the Hungry International, 1981
Most Admired Man Not in Congress, Conservative Digest, 1983
Voted several times among the 10 Most Admired Men in America, Good Housekeeping Poll
Named one of the 25 Most Influential People in America, U.S. News & World Report, 1983
Debated New Zealand Prime Minister David Lange, defending the “Western Nuclear Alliance,” at Oxford Debating Society, 1985
Named the Most Influential Central Virginian of the 20th Century in a survey conducted by the News and Advance in Lynchburg, Va, Dec. 1999
Named most influential clergyman of the 20th Century in Va. by the Virginia Historical Society
Featured on the covers of Newsweek and Time, and on countless print and broadcast outlets
Speaker at colleges and universities including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Dartmouth, UCLA, and Notre Dame
Met privately numerous times with Presidents George Bush, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, and Richard Nixon. Met with world leaders such as Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, South African President F.W. DeKlerk, Jordan’s King Hussein, and Israeli Prime Ministers Begin, Shamir, Rabin, Peres, Netanyahu, and Sharon.
Led missionary and humanitarian efforts in nations around the world, including the former Soviet Union


Church Aflame – Impact, 1971
Capturing a Town for Christ – Revell, 1973
Listen, America! – Doubleday, 1980
The Fundamentalist Phenomenon – Doubleday, 1981
Finding Inner Peace and Strength – Doubleday, 1982
When it Hurts Too Much to Cry – Tyndale, 1984
Wisdom for Living – Victor Books, 1984
Stepping Out on Faith – Tyndale, 1984
Champions for God – Victor Books, 1985
If I Should Die Before I Wake – Thomas Nelson,
Strength for the Journey – Simon & Schuster, 1987
The New American Family – Word, 1992
Falwell: An Autobiography – Liberty House, 1997
Fasting Can Change Your Life – Regal, 1998
Building Dynamic Faith – Thomas Nelson, 2005


Wife, Macel Pate Falwell (1933-2015), married 4/12/58
Son, Jerry Falwell Jr., Attorney and former President of Liberty University, Lynchburg, Va.
Son, Jonathan Falwell, Senior Pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church, Lynchburg, Va.
Daughter, Jeannie Falwell Rivers, Surgeon, Richmond, Va.

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