Kirby J. Hensley

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Kirby James Hensley
Born(1911-07-23)July 23, 1911
DiedMarch 19, 1999(1999-03-19) (aged 87)
Occupation(s)President and founder of Universal Life Church
Years active1962–1999

Kirby James Hensley (July 23, 1911 – March 19, 1999) was the president and founder of the Universal Life Church.


The second of seven children, Hensley was born on July 23, 1911, in the mountains of Low Gap, Yancey County, North Carolina. For more than 65 years he studied and preached religion throughout the United States. He was practically functionally illiterate[1] (but he continued studying religion;[2] reached doctoral level[3]), he hired others to read the Bible for him and later listened to recordings of the Bible on tape.[4]

Hensley was ordained in a branch of the Baptist Church, but after several years he left the denomination and attended the Pentecostal churches in the area. He married his first wife Nora in a Pentecostal church ceremony; they had two daughters together. He also pastored in Oklahoma and California.

Hensley later divorced Nora and moved back to North Carolina, where he met his second wife, Lida. During their forty-six-year marriage, they had one daughter and two sons.

In the mid-1980s, Hensley called himself the King of Aqualandia and sold citizenship documents, as well as church ordinations, for $35.[5] He ran for President of the United States as the Universal Party's candidate in 1964 and 1968, with Roscoe MacKenna as his running mate.

Hensley remained president of the church until his death on March 19, 1999. He compiled many sermons and once appeared on 60 Minutes (also available in printed version — final highlight on page 24, still with Morley Safer, who concludes: "I certainly liked him. He was a wonderful character.").[6]


  1. ^ "Inside the Universal Life Church, the internet's one true religion". The Week. Archived from the original on 14 April 2015. Retrieved 16 December 2023.
  2. ^ President/Founder, Universal Life Church, Headquarters, December 16, 2023
  3. ^ Clergy: Mail-Order Ministers, Time (magazine), December 16, 2023
  4. ^ The Holy Bible for the 21st Century, U.L.C. Printing Dept.
  5. ^ Inside the Universal Life Church, the internet's one true religion, Aaron Sankin, April 3, 2015
  6. ^ Jackman, Ian (2003). Con Men: Fascinating Profiles of Swindlers and Rogues from the Files of the Most Successful Broadcast in Television History. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-2448-5. — Necessary clarification/"Con man": page 21 — "And the paper included a lot of advertisements that were, as Safer put it carefully, 'Kind of dubious—slightly, you know, con man—.' It was at this point that Kirby Hensley told Morley Safer he considered himself a con man. He preferred to believe that it's what you do and how you treat your fellowman that count."


Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Office created
President of the Universal Life Church
Succeeded by