Donald Wildmon

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Donald Wildmon
Donald Ellis Wildmon

(1938-01-18)January 18, 1938
DiedDecember 28, 2023(2023-12-28) (aged 85)
Alma materMillsaps College
Candler School of Theology
  • Minister
  • author
  • radio host
  • consumer activist
Years active1977–2010
Known forFounder, American Family Radio and American Family Association
Lynda Lou Bennett
(m. 1961)

Donald Ellis Wildmon (January 18, 1938 – December 28, 2023) was an American ordained United Methodist minister, author, radio host, and founder and chairman of the American Family Association and American Family Radio.

Life and career[edit]

Donald Ellis Wildmon was born in Ripley, Mississippi,[1][2] the son of Johnnie Bernice (née Tigrett), a schoolteacher, and Ellis Clifton Wildmon, a civil servant.[3][4] Wildmon graduated from Millsaps College in 1960. In 1961, he married Lynda Lou Bennett, with whom he had two sons and two daughters. From 1961 to 1963, he served in the U.S. Army. He gained his Master of Divinity (M.Div.) from Emory University's Candler School of Theology in 1965.[5]

In June 1977, he moved to Tupelo, Mississippi, to establish the National Federation for Decency (NFD), the predecessor to the modern American Family Association, because after watching television one night in December 1976 he felt that no primetime television program was appropriate for his family with young children.[6][7] With a membership of 1,400, NFD's first television advertiser boycott was during spring 1978 and against Sears for sponsoring All in the Family, Charlie's Angels, and Three's Company.[8] Sears withdrew sponsorship of the latter two programs.[9][10]

In February 1980, Wildmon founded the Coalition for Better Television (CBTV), this time with the help of Jerry Falwell and claiming a nationwide membership of 5 million.[6][11] However, CBTV disbanded and Wildmon started Christian Leaders for Responsible Television without Falwell's involvement.[12]

In 1986, the owners of the 7-Eleven convenience store chain pulled adult magazines from its stores after a boycott by the NFD.[9][13]

Campaign for Decency[edit]

Throughout the late 1970s, Wildmon actively protested television series that he thought promoted immoral lifestyles. He spoke against such programs as Three's Company, M*A*S*H and Dallas.[14]

Damned in the U.S.A.[edit]

In 1991, the British television documentary Damned in the U.S.A., made for Channel 4's Without Walls arts series[15] and directed by Paul Yule, about the then current state of censorship in the United States, chronicled the battle between Wildmon and artists Andres Serrano and Robert Mapplethorpe. The documentary won the International Emmy for Best Documentary, amongst several other awards. Wildmon sued the producers for $8 million in damages after a distributor got the rights to show the film in the United States, stating that he had signed a contract with the producers that prevented distribution in the USA. A federal court found that Wildmon's contract did not support his claim concerning distribution of the film and the documentary was released in 50 cities nationwide.[16]

Illness and retirement[edit]

On August 18, 2009, Tim Wildmon released the news via email that his father had been admitted to the North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo over the weekend of August 15–16, with what was thought to be a serious case of meningitis. After running tests, however, doctors determined that he had Saint Louis encephalitis, a disease usually contracted from mosquitoes. He spent 121 days in the hospital and rehabilitation, and later underwent surgery for cancer on his left eye. On March 3, 2010, it was announced that Wildmon was stepping down as chairman of the American Family Association. His son Tim was expected to become the new chairman.[17][18]

On December 28, 2023, Wildmon died in Tupelo, Mississippi, at the age of 85, due to complications from Lewy body dementia.[19]


  • Wildmon, Donald E. (1975) Stand up to Life. Abingdon Press. ISBN 978-0-687-39290-2
  • Wildmon, D. (1985) Home Invaders. David C. Cook. ISBN 978-0-89693-521-1
  • Wildmon, D. (1986) The Case Against Pornography. David C. Cook. ISBN 978-0-89693-178-7
  • Wildmon, D. (and Randall Nulton; 1989) Don Wildmon: The Man the Networks Love to Hate. Bristol. ISBN 978-0-917851-14-8
  • Wildmon, D. (1997) Following the Carpenter: Parables to Inspire Obedience in the Christian Life. Thomas Nelson. ISBN 978-0-7852-7215-1
  • Wildmon, D. (2009) Speechless: Silencing the Christians: How Secular Liberals and Homosexual Activists are Outlawing Christianity (and Judaism) to Force Their Sexual Agenda on America. Richard Vigilante. ISBN 0-9800763-3-1
  • Friedeman, Matt. Wildmon, Donald E. (2001) In the Fight: A Mississippi Conservative Swings Back. Well Writers' Guild. ISBN 978-0-9711004-1-1

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chapman, R. (2010). Culture Wars: An Encyclopedia of Issues, Viewpoints, and Voices. M.E. Sharpe. pp. 1–53. ISBN 9780765622501. Archived from the original on January 8, 2017. Retrieved January 8, 2017.
  2. ^ Ownby, Wilson, Abadie, Lindsey & Thomas (2017). The Mississippi Encyclopedia. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 1330. ISBN 9781496811592. Retrieved January 18, 2018.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ Capace, N. (2001). Encyclopedia of Mississippi. Somerset Publishers. p. 321. ISBN 9780403096039. Archived from the original on January 8, 2017. Retrieved January 8, 2017.
  4. ^ Gale Research Inc (1989). "Newsmakers". Newsmakers. Cumulation. Gale Research. ISBN 9780810322073. ISSN 0899-0417. Archived from the original on December 31, 2017. Retrieved January 8, 2017.
  5. ^ Donald Wildmon Archived November 15, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ a b Limberg, Val E. "Wildmon, Donald". Museum of Broadcast Communications. Archived from the original on May 30, 2009. Retrieved July 18, 2009.
  7. ^ Winbush, Don (June 19, 1989), "Interview with Rev. Donald E. Wildmon: Bringing Satan To Heel", Time, vol. 133, no. 25, retrieved November 15, 2019, I sat down one night to watch television with my family ... Very shortly into the program, somebody was jumping into bed with somebody else's wife, a scene of adultery. Of course it was normal, approved — you know, there was no kind of condemnation or showing it as being wrong ... I got into another program, which we watched for five minutes or so, and the first thing I know, somebody has called somebody else an s.o.b., but they didn't use the initials. And I asked my children to change the channel again. This was in 1976, and we had three networks plus PBS. I got involved in a pretty good mystery, and all of a sudden the scene changed and one man has another man tied down and is working him over with a hammer. I asked the children to get up and turn the set off.
  8. ^ "Three's Company". Museum of Broadcast Communications. Archived from the original on February 3, 2009. Retrieved July 18, 2009.
  9. ^ a b Groth, Aimee; Lubin, Gus (August 5, 2011). "The Unstoppable Rise Of The American Family Association". Business Insider. Retrieved October 8, 2020.
  10. ^ Heldman, Caroline (2017). Protest Politics in the Marketplace: Consumer Activism in the Corporate Age. Cornell University Press. pp. 6–7. ISBN 9781501715402.
  11. ^ Clarke, Gerald (June 29, 1981), "Sanitizing the Small Screen", Time, vol. 117, no. 26, archived from the original on September 12, 2012
  12. ^ Selcraig, Bruce (October 17, 2005). "America's Art Critic". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved October 8, 2020.
  13. ^ Shiver Jr, Jube (April 11, 1986). "7-Elevens Act to Stop Adult Magazine Sales". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 8, 2020.
  14. ^ "The Museum of Broadcast Communications - Encyclopedia of Television | Three's Company archives". Archived from the original on September 4, 2013. Retrieved January 8, 2017.
  15. ^ "Collections Search | BFI | British Film Institute".
  16. ^ Koehler, Robert (September 10, 1992). "Wildmon Fails in Bid to Thwart Film". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on November 8, 2012. Retrieved September 7, 2011.
  17. ^ "Donald Wildmon retires as Chairman of the American Family Association". Archived from the original on March 8, 2010. Retrieved November 10, 2016.
  18. ^ "AFA founder Don Wildmon resigns as chairman". San Diego Union-Tribune. March 3, 2010. Retrieved January 30, 2023.
  19. ^ Carlisle, Zac (December 28, 2023). "Donald Wildmon, founder of American Family Association, dies in Tupelo". WTVA. Retrieved December 28, 2023.

External links[edit]