Remembering Jerry Falwell (1933-2007)

Dr. Jerry Falwell, well-known evangelist and founder of Liberty University, died yesterday morning. Falwell was a highly influential figure in American politics and religion. Often misquoted and misunderstood by the media, Falwell was a lightning-rod for controversy. In fact, one group in San Francisco staged an “anti-memorial” protest service against Falwell yesterday within hours of the announcement of his death.

Despite his detractors, Falwell leaves behind an impressive list of both personal and institutional achievements. Albert Mohler has a nice article on the legacy of Jerry Falwell in the Washington Post’s On Faith section.

Todd Rhoades at MMI has been collecting some of the tributes to Falwell that came in following the news of his death. Here are a few of them. You can visit Todd’s site here for more tributes from a wide variety of contributors.

  • “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.” —President Bush
  • “It was my honor to share the front lines with him in the battle for righteousness in our nation. We will continue that fight, in his honor, until our mutual goals are achieved.” — James Dobson
  • “His life is a testament not only to the power of faith to move hearts, but to the strength of the American ethos that stresses the importance of citizenship … He was a great leader, a person totally sustained by his faith but able to work with many people from many different backgrounds without imposing rigidity on anyone else.” – Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
  • “He was a man who set a direction. He was someone who was not afraid to speak his mind. We all have great respect for him … he is a person who told you what he thought, and you knew where he stood.” – Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani.
  • “Jerry Falwell was a close personal friend for many years. We did not always agree on everything, but I knew him to be a man of God. His accomplishments went beyond most clergy of his generation. Some of my grandchildren have attended and currently attend Liberty University. He leaves a gigantic vacuum in the evangelical world.” – Evangelist Billy Graham.
  • “Over the years we became friends; sometimes we had polar opposite points of view. … I have many fond memories of him. He leaves a great legacy of service and a great university behind. He’s left his footprints in the sands of time.” – The Rev. Jesse Jackson.
  • “Dr. Falwell was a man of distinguished accomplishment who devoted his life to serving his faith and country. Our thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Falwell’s family at this difficult time.” – Republican presidential candidate and Sen. John McCain.
  • “An American who built and led a movement based on strong principles and strong faith has left us. He will be greatly missed, but the legacy of his important work will continue through his many ministries where he put his faith into action.” – Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
  • “Reverend Falwell and I didn’t agree on anything, but we got along personally. He personally was genuinely a nice guy, and I would find him to be one of the few people in the public light who was genuine. He believed what he said. I used to tell him, ‘What you’re saying is crazy,’ but he really believes it.” Rev. Al Sharpton


  1. Kathryn Post says:

    It’s weird to think that the great Falwell is dead. At liberty, he was just everywhere. Sure, we joked a lot about being “Jerry’s Kids” and about what a bad driver he was. (Rumor had it that if he hit you you could get free tuition!) But when I realize that I was in the last graduating class from Liberty that Dr. Falwell presided over, it’s a little awe inspiring. During the ceremony all I could think about was how long winded he was and how he told us in no uncertain terms “SEND MONEY!” (Yep – that’s a direct quote – all the parents in the auditorium gasped when he said it too) How could I have realized that in a year he would be dead? Why didn’t I appreciate all the talks he gave, understanding how few he had left to give? Thanks for remembering this dear man, who has a very special place in my heart.
    There are so many beautiful stories about him that may never be told. He once gave a girl from my dorm $100 because he was at the same restaurant that she was at, and heard the waiters singing happy birthday to her. He didn’t know her at all, but he made that birthday special. I also knew a poor student couple who he took out to eat because he knew they didn’t have a lot. These are the stories that won’t make the press. But these stories are who he really was.

  2. Ray Fowler says:

    Thanks, Kathryn, for sharing your personal experiences about Falwell. It is amazing how he attracted controversy. This post received several inappropriate comments that had to be deleted and which prompted me to install a foul language filter on the blog.

    For those who may be interested, my blog’s comment policy is found under the Personal Profile tab:

    “Please feel free to interact using the comments section. You do not have to be a Christian or agree with a post in order to comment. I just ask that everyone respect each other in the comments and tell us what you think!”

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