DEAD: ON THIS DATE
Jerry Falwell (aged 73)
American evangelical pastor, televangelist, and conservative political commentator
Jerry Lamon Falwell Sr. (August 11, 1933 – May 15, 2007) was an American Southern Baptist pastor, televangelist, and conservative activist. He was the founding pastor of the Thomas Road Baptist Church, a megachurch in Lynchburg, Virginia. He founded Lynchburg Christian Academy (now Liberty Christian Academy) in 1967 and Liberty University in 1971 and co-founded the Moral Majority in 1979.
In February 1999, an unsigned article that media outlets attributed to Falwell was published in the National Liberty Journal – a promotional publication of the university he founded – claimed that the purple Teletubby named Tinky Winky was intended as a gay role model. An article published in 1998 by the Salonwebsite had noted Tinky Winky’s status as a gay icon. In response, Steve Rice, spokesperson for Itsy Bitsy Entertainment, which licenses the Teletubbies in the United States, said, “I really find it absurd and kind of offensive.” The UK show was aimed at pre-school children, but the article stated “he is purple – the gay pride color; and his antenna is shaped like a triangle – the gay-pride symbol”. Apart from those characteristics Tinky Winky also carries a magic bag which the NLJ and Salon articles said was a purse. Falwell added that “role modeling the gay lifestyle is damaging to the moral lives of children”.
DEATH: On May 15, 2007, Falwell was found without pulse and unconscious in his office at about 10:45 a.m., after he missed a morning appointment, and was taken to Lynchburg General Hospital. “I had breakfast with him, and he was fine at breakfast … He went to his office, I went to mine and they found him unresponsive,” said Ron Godwin, the executive vice president of Falwell’s Liberty University. His condition was initially reported as “gravely serious”; CPR was administered unsuccessfully. As of 2:10 p.m., during a live press conference, a doctor for the hospital confirmed that Falwell had died of “cardiac arrhythmia, or sudden cardiac death”. A statement issued by the hospital reported he was pronounced dead at Lynchburg General Hospital at 12:40 p.m., EST, at the age of 73. Falwell’s family, including his wife, the former Macel Pate (1933-2015), and sons, Jerry Falwell Jr. and Jonathan Falwell, were at the hospital at the time of the pronouncement.