Garner Ted Armstrong
|Garner Ted Armstrong|
Garner Ted Armstrong in 1979
February 9, 1930|
|Died||September 12, 2003(aged 73)|
|Resting place||Gladewater Memorial Park (Gladewater, Texas)|
|Residence||Portland, OR (1930–1932); Eugene, OR (1932–1946); Pasadena, CA (1946–1978); Tyler, TX (1978–2003)|
|Other names||William Talboy Wright (pseudonym used for his book Churchill's Gold)|
|Education||BA (1956), MA (1960), Ph.D. (1964), Ambassador University|
|Occupation||Minister, Author, Educator, Radio and Television Commentator|
|Employer||Worldwide Church of God (1955–1978), Church of God International (1978–1998), Intercontinental Church of God (1998–2003)|
|Known for||Voice of The World Tomorrow, President of Ambassador University (1975–1978)|
|Title||Vice-President, Radio/Worldwide Church of God (1958–1978); President, Ambassador University (1975–1978); President, Garner Ted Armstrong Evangelistic Association (1978–2003)|
|Successor||Herbert W. Armstrong (as President of Ambassador University); Mark Armstrong (as leader of the Intercontinental Church of God)|
|Political party||Independent (though conservative leaning)|
|Religion||Church of God|
|Spouse(s)||Shirley Hammer Armstrong|
|Children||Mark Armstrong (b. 1953), David Dale Armstrong (b. 1955), Matthew Ted Armstrong (b. 1956)|
|Parent(s)||Herbert W. & Loma D. Armstrong|
|Relatives||Sister Beverly Armstrong Gott, Sister Dorothy Mattson, Brother Richard Armstrong, Uncle Dwight L. Armstrong (Christian hymn composer), Nephew Tedd Armstrong (Rock Musician)|
Garner Ted Armstrong (February 9, 1930 – September 15, 2003) was an American evangelist and the son of Herbert W. Armstrong, founder of the Worldwide Church of God, at the time a Sabbatarian organization that taught observance of seventh-day Sabbath, and annual Sabbath days based on Leviticus 23.
Armstrong initially became recognized when he succeeded his father as the voice of The World Tomorrow, the church's radio program that aired around the world. A television program of the same name followed, aired mostly in North America, eventually giving way to a Garner Ted Armstrong broadcast, a half-hour program that mixed news and biblical commentary. His polemical message was unlike that of most other religious broadcasters of his day.
Garner Ted's genealogy is described in his father's autobiography. The elder Armstrong reported that the Armstrong ancestors arrived in America in the late 17th century with William Penn. The ancestry was traced to Edward I of England. Garner Ted's grandmother was "something like a third cousin to former President Herbert Hoover".
Armstrong was born in Portland, Oregon, to Loma Isabelle (Dillon) and Herbert W. Armstrong. He was raised in Eugene, Oregon. He was the youngest of four children. He was named for a great-grandmother on his mother's side, Martha Garner, who was born in Suffolk, England in 1841 and died in Iowa in 1923, seven years before he was born.
Following service in the United States Navy during the Korean War, Armstrong returned to Pasadena, California where his father had moved the church's operations in 1946. He was baptized in early 1953 (Origin and History, p. 36). He enrolled in Ambassador College, founded by his father and supported by the church. Ambassador was state-approved but not accredited, and Armstrong eventually completed bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in the only discipline offered, theology. He was ordained a minister in 1955 and held key administrative posts in both the Worldwide Church of God and Ambassador College until he was disfellowshipped (excommunicated) by his father in 1978. Prior to his removal, he was executive vice president of the church and president of the college, and was widely considered to be heir-apparent to succeed his father as head of the church and its operations.
In the mid 1970s, Penthouse magazine described Garner Ted as providing "late night companionship to thousands of truckers, the voice of the morning to millions of farmers, the living room preacher to a subculture of lonely, frightened, disoriented Americans." Noted for his charisma, movie star looks, and for being a music enthusiast, he toyed with becoming a nightclub singer before following his father into the ministry. He was at ease before cameras and microphones. In radio and TV programs he mixed political, economic, and social news of the day with Bible-based commentary. Armstrong's voice, style and presentation (with a low-key, ironic delivery more in the style of a comedian's monologue than in the didactic fashion of the standard evangelist) attracted millions to the church-sponsored broadcasts. His voice was so widely known that his name was included with many of the world's politicians and entertainers on the record track The Intro and the Outro by the Bonzo Dog Band of the 1960s. On a radio commercial that aired in the Raleigh, NC area in the mid 1980s, he was among several celebrities said to have been seen at a popular restaurant in the area.
Armstrong's proclivity toward secular pursuits outside evangelism was evidenced by his appearance as a guest on the US television show Hee Haw in the 1970s Garner Ted was particularly a popular speaker among the country music stars of the US, personal friend of men like Merle Haggard. In fact, after Garner Ted died in 2003, Merle commented that “after Johnny Cash died, I lost a real close friend in Garner Ted Armstrong. He was like a professor to me. What education I have, I owe to him.”
In 1976 Garner Ted was a guest on the Hee Haw show that starred Buck Owens and Roy Clark. He popped up out of the “corn patch” on the show to say “Sa-loot” to his hometown of Eugene, Oregon. He sang a country western song he had written titled “Working Man’s Hall of Fame,” and joined “the whole Hee Haw gang” to sing the popular Ocean gospel song Put Your Hand in the Hand. He was so well-known that one of the Hee Haw regulars, Archie Campbell, released a parody record in which he did a voice impression of Garner Ted doing the World Tomorrow program. On Archie’s record he was “Gagner Fred Hamstrung.” The Simpsons actor Harry Shearer parodied Garner Ted Armstrong during coverage of the annual New Year's Day Pasadena Rose Parade along with The Credibility Gap ensemble of comedians featuring Michael McKean and David Lander of Laverne & Shirley fame, on their Warner Bros. Records comedy album, The Credibility Gap Floats, 1979.
Garner Ted Armstrong became a bit of a “household name” in the US and some other parts of the world where his program was broadcast. Armstrong also arranged for Hee Haw co-host Buck Owens to entertain attendees at the WCG's annual convention one year. He authored a novel, Churchill's Gold, penned under the pseudonym William Talboy Wright - a mixture of names from his grandparents: William Dillon (maternal grandfather), Isabelle Talboy (maternal grandmother), and Eva Wright (paternal grandmother).
Garner Ted Armstrong was ordained to the ministry by his father in 1955. G.T. Armstrong later reported in a sermon that he did not want to be a minister, to which his father answered something to the effect that because he did not want to enter the ministry that was a sign that he should. In 1957, he began to take over much of his father's broadcasting responsibilities. During that same year, he traveled extensively through South America. As a fluent Spanish speaker, he made several Spanish-language broadcasts of the World Tomorrow.
The decade of the 1970s brought a series of reversals for Armstrong's career, however. In 1972, Time reported that Herbert W. Armstrong had said, without further elaboration, that his son was "in the bonds of Satan" and had been removed from church roles. Speculation and ministerial unrest were rife that the younger Armstrong had been committing adultery, gambling and had assaulted the stewardess on his personal jet airplane.
The year 1972 had been prominent in Herbert W. Armstrong's prophetic views, as elaborated in a booklet called 1975 in Prophecy!. January 1972 was supposed to be the conclusion of the second of two 19-year "time cycles" which, according to the elder Armstrong, had begun in 1953 when The World Tomorrow began to be heard over Radio Luxembourg in Europe. According to his theory, at the conclusion of that second 19-year time cycle the members of the church were expected to flee to a place of refuge, which leading ministers had speculated could be the ancient city of Petra, carved into rock in Jordan. Following this flight, World War III supposedly would begin, with a United States of Europe rising up to overthrow both the United States of America and the United Kingdom. This fitted with both of the Armstrongs' teachings of a theory generally referred to as British Israelism, outlined in the elder Armstrong's book The United States and Britain in Prophecy.
When the church's speculative prophecies about 1972 and 1975 did not occur, Garner Ted Armstrong proposed dropping such an approach in favor of one centered on Christian living and an outline of church doctrines and practice. Nevertheless, by 1977, Armstrong's media exposure included a daily radio program broadcast on over 300 radio stations across the United States, 33 in Australia, and 11 in the Philippines, with other programs throughout the world rebroadcast in the German, Spanish, French, Italian, and Russian languages. With an annual television budget of six million dollars, his exposure also included television programs which appeared on up to 165 channels. For almost two years this included a daily television appearance. According to Armstrong, notables such as Nelson Rockefeller, Cyrus Vance and Hubert Humphrey, as well as a number of U.S. senators were frequent viewers of the broadcast.
His establishment of a "Systematic Theology Project" was eventually jettisoned by his father, but a form of it was later adopted by a separate church that Garner Ted would establish.
Relationship with Stanley R. Rader
By the mid-1970s, Stanley Rader, an attorney and church accountant who had been a personal assistant to Herbert W. Armstrong since 1958, appeared to be stepping into the number two position of administration previously thought to be Garner Ted's domain. Relations between the two became strained and a power struggle ensued. One conflict was that Rader had set up privately owned, affiliated corporations that were doing business with the church. Garner Ted, and others in the organization, were skeptical of Rader's legal and financial dealings and suspected a bid to control the church's multimillion-dollar business. One objection to Rader's role was that, being Jewish, he had never been a baptized member of the church or a practicing Christian. That obstacle was removed in 1975 when Rader was baptized by the elder Armstrong.
By the mid-1970s two different and rival views were developing regarding the work and future of the church.
One plan was formulated by Garner Ted Armstrong, who wanted to take the church in a direction built around a larger publishing and broadcasting platform that would go out under his name. Garner Ted was wary of prophecies built around specific dates, and he was reported to be against the idea of continuing to deliver messages that associated the U.S. and Britain with the Lost Ten Tribes. He experimented with turning the church's flagship magazine, The Plain Truth, into a tabloid-size newspaper in the style of the Christian Science Monitor. He envisioned a television broadcast along the lines of one that was later developed by the Christian Science Church, which created a short-lived nightly news program that was later seen on the Discovery Channel.
Meanwhile, Stanley Rader aided significantly in crafting a unique role for the senior Armstrong on the world stage: Herbert W. Armstrong was promoted to various governments as an "ambassador without portfolio for world peace." In that role he did not so much represent the Worldwide Church of God or Ambassador College as he did a completely new entity called the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation (AICF). This foundation helped to finance the Tatum O'Neal motion picture Paper Moon and a new and slick commercial publication called Quest; bought Everest House, a publishing company; and turned the Ambassador Auditorium, located on the college campus in Pasadena, into a performing arts venue that boasted an annual subscription series featuring world-renowned performers and celebrities from stage, screen and the recording arts. Gifts from the foundation helped Rader secure the audiences with world leaders for the elder Armstrong, whose message was less an overt Christian one than a more general one about peace, brotherly love, giving instead of getting, and a "great unseen hand from someplace" intervening in world affairs.
Garner Ted was known to disagree with this approach as well as the expenditure of funds on it and other foundation activities. It became an increasing point of division between father and son.
Meanwhile, in January 1976, he appeared on the television show Hee Haw. Some saw this as an increasing focus on secular pursuits.
In 1977, he officiated at the wedding of his father to the former Ramona Martin. The two would separate in 1982, and divorce in 1984.
Father and son part ways
As Rader's influence with the elder Armstrong grew, so did the gap between Garner Ted and his father. On top of the historic allegations of Garner Ted's gambling and adultery, the disagreement between father and son over operations and certain doctrinal positions of the church boiled over. In 1978 Herbert Armstrong excommunicated his son and fired him from all roles in the church and college on the night of Wednesday, June 28, 1978, by means of a phone call to Tyler, Texas. Garner Ted moved to Tyler, Texas where he founded the Church of God International and the Garner Ted Armstrong Evangelistic Association, through which he would soon return to the television airwaves.
Garner Ted Armstrong never again had the media outreach that he had enjoyed in his father's organization, nor did his new church ever rival his father's in membership statistics. The Church of God, International did, however, become a haven for some former members of the Pasadena church who took exception to Rader's role and/or the elder Armstrong's autocratic style. As a result, members of the Worldwide Church of God were forbidden by Herbert Armstrong from having any contact with Garner Ted, and his name was removed from a significant number of church publications. At the time of the separation, he was one of the Evangelists of the Worldwide Church of God.
However, in his later years, Armstrong's relationship with the Worldwide Church of God was somewhat cordial. Armstrong and his family were invited to stay on the Ambassador campus in Pasadena during the time of his father's funeral. He returned to the Big Sandy campus in 1986 for the funeral of Norval Pyle, an early Worldwide Church of God pioneer. In the spring of 1997, he was interviewed by a staff writer from the Ambassador University student newspaper (shortly before the university closed). Finally, the church archivist sent him several family heirlooms that were held in the Worldwide Church of God's possession following his father's death.
He continued to conduct personal appearance campaigns throughout the United States, Australia, Jamaica, and Canada but on a much smaller scale than during his heyday in the 1970s. The appearances also provided opportunities for unofficial reunions for those who left or remained in the Worldwide Church of God. In the 1980s, he was in Jamaica when Hurricane Gilbert, a major hurricane, struck the island.
In the fall of 1989, he travelled to Berlin to do on the spot radio broadcasts covering the fall of the Berlin Wall. That was coming full circle, as he had been in Berlin in 1961 as well.
His reputation was again damaged when a licensed nurse in Tyler accused him of making sexual advances during two massage sessions in 1995. She was interviewed by then-CNBC television host Geraldo Rivera, who showed portions of videotapes she had made during the encounters. The fallout from the scandal was immediate and dramatic, and Armstrong was asked to step down from his roles with the Church of God International. He declined to appear on Rivera's show to discuss the incident. His next steps were to heighten the profile of his Garner Ted Armstrong Evangelistic Association, which he had established in 1998, and the Intercontinental Church of God, which he headed until his death.
Death and legacy
Armstrong died on September 12, 2003, due to complications from pneumonia. He was buried in Gladewater Memorial Park, approximately two miles east of the former Big Sandy, Texas, campus of Ambassador University. He is buried with his wife's family: his father-in-law Roy Hammer, his mother-in-law Pearl Hammer, and several other members of the Hammer family. His parents, paternal grandmother, and brother are buried in Altadena, California. The Hammers were the donors of the original property on which the Ambassador campus was located. His widow Shirley continues to serve as the vice-president of the Garner Ted Armstrong Evangelistic Association, and continues to reside in the private, gated community of Emerald Bay, Bullard, a small community outside Tyler, Texas on Lake Palestine.
Rather than selecting a new media spokesman, the evangelistic association continues to broadcast old programs made by Garner Ted Armstrong on approximately 30 television stations and cable outlets according to the Garner Ted Armstrong TV/Radio Page of the ministry's website. The Intercontinental Church of God (USA) and Garner Ted Armstrong Evangelistic Association are now led by Mark Armstrong, one of three sons of Garner Ted and Shirley Hammer Armstrong. Mark Armstrong functions as CEO of the organizations and producer of the television outreach program.
- Your Marriage Can Be Happy (1960)
- The Plain Truth About Child Rearing (1963, based on doctoral dissertation)
- After Death...then What? (1966)
- The Wonderful World Tomorrow: What It Will Be Like (1966, co-written with Herbert W. Armstrong)
- A Whale of A Tale (1968)
- Modern Dating: Key to Success or Failure in Marriage (1969)
- Some Fishy Stories About Evolution (1969)
- A Theory For The Birds (1971)
- The Real Jesus (1972, short version; 1977, expanded version published by Sheed, Andres, McMichael)
- What Is A Real Christian? (1973)
- Did God Create a Devil (1973, contributed Part Two titled, "Satan's Fate"; remainder of text written by Herbert W. Armstrong)
- Do You Have An Immortal Soul? (1975)
- How To Get Rid of Guilt (1979)
- Why Should You Repent? (1980)
- Oh God, Where Were You When I Needed You? (1980)
- Peter's Story (1981)
- Facts You Should Know About Christmas (1981)
- The Ten Commandments (1981)
- Saturday-Sunday, Which? (1982)
- What Is The Real Gospel? (1982)
- Europe and America in Prophecy (1984)
- Can You Understand Bible Prophecy? (1984)
- Believe It Or Not - The Bible Does Not Promise Heaven! (1985)
- The Passover - Is It For Christians? (1986)
- What Is The Mark of the Beast? (1987)
- Churchill's Gold (1988, under the pseudonym, William Talboy Wright)
- The Answer to Unanswered Prayer (1989)
- The Shocking Truth About Satanism (1989)
- Violent Crime Can Be Stopped - Here's How! (1992)
- The Origin and History of the Church of God, International (1992)
- Betrayal and Forgiveness (1993)
- The Real Reasons Why Christ Came to This Earth (1995)
- God's Armor (1995)
- The Great Tribulation: Is It About to Happen? (1996)
- Life on Mars? Or Did God Create the Universe? (1996)
- The Beast of the Apocalypse: What Is It? (1997)
- Saved By Grace? (1998)
- Coming Soon...An Invasion From Outer Space! (1999)
- Armstrong, Herbert (1967). Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong, Vol. I. Worldwide Church of God. pp. 25–26.
- Ancestry of Garner Ted Armstrong
- Martin, Douglas. "Garner Ted Armstrong, Evangelist, Dies at 73". Obituaries. The New York Times. Retrieved 15 September 2012.
- Armstrong, Garner Ted. "The Plain Truth About Child Rearing". Worldwide Church of God. Retrieved 15 September 2012.
- "In Bed With Garner Ted". Ambassador Report. 1977. Retrieved October 4, 2008.
- Contents- US & BC in Prophecy
- Armstrong, Garner Ted, "Are We Relevant?" sermon delivered on November 19, 1988 (Church of God, International).
- Church Doctrines (Systematic Theology Project)
- John Trechak, "Power Struggle", Ambassador Report, Issue 5, April 1978.
- "Garner Ted Armstrong Evangelistic Association".
- "Ambassador Report".
- Hurricane Gilbert, sermon by Garner Ted Armstrong, Church of God International, delivered September 17, 1988.
- Transcript and Video of Geraldo Rivera's interview with GTA's masseuse
- Intercontinental Church of God - Home
- New York Times: Garner Ted Armstrong, Evangelist, Dies at 73. September 17, 2003.
- Garner Ted Armstrong TV Program
Prophecies of Dystopic "Old World, New World" Transitions Told: The World Tomorrow radio broadcasts to the United Kingdom: 1965-1967; Eric Gilder and Mervyn Hagger. p. 205-222. Univers Enciclopedic, Bucharest. ISBN 978-973-637-159-2.