NEWS SIDEBAR: Falwell’s widow shares the private life behind a public man

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c. 2008 Religion News Service

(UNDATED) A year after his death, the widow of the late Rev. Jerry Falwell has written a book revealing personal remembrances of her husband. Macel Falwell, 74, author of “Jerry Falwell: His Life and Legacy,” is the mother of two sons, the Rev. Jonathan Falwell _ now pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va. _ and Jerry Falwell Jr. _ now president and chancellor of Liberty University, and a daughter, Jeannie Falwell Savas, a surgeon in Richmond, Va.

(Falwell’s answers have been edited for clarity and length.)


Q: In your book you say that Jerry Falwell was “the polar opposite of his public persona.” Can you tell us what you mean?

A: Absolutely anybody that hated Jerry, if they met him face to face, they would leave loving him. He loved people and he was just always doing things for people.


Q: How did he view the media, which covered him extensively and noted his comments like saying that the U.S. was vulnerable to the 9/11 attacks because of national sin?

A: Didn’t bother him one bit. He acted like it never happened. It didn’t bother him one bit.


Q: What has your last year been like living without him?

A: (Crying) It’s been horrible. Every time I go into the house, I feel like he’s going to be there. It’s been terrible.


Q: Is it hard to go to Thomas Road without him preaching anymore?

A: The first few weeks, it was hard to go to church and some of the songs that they would sing, they’d remind me of him and it was pretty tough.


Q: Is it encouraging for you to see your son Jonathan preach every week instead?

A: Yes, that helps a lot and he’s done so well. People can’t believe that. Everywhere I go they tell me they listen to him doing a wonderful job. … It feels sometimes like Jerry’s there.


Q: And how do you view the difference between your husband’s leadership of Liberty and your son Jerry Jr.’s leadership? Does he have a different approach?

A: Jerry Jr.’s more like me than he is his dad. Jonathan’s like his dad. Jerry Jr. is like me. He never liked to speak in public and now he has to do it. And I think he’s getting to the place where he’s getting a little bit comfortable.


Q: How did your husband aid in their transition before his death?

A: Jerry Jr. was handling all the finances and all and Jonathan had been speaking in the early service on Sunday morning a bit.


Q: Did he ever say anything to you about them following after him?

A: He told me that they would be working together and that Jerry didn’t like to speak publicly. Jonathan did. And working together they could do the job well.


Q: Is there something you really wanted to say that you finally got to say in your book?

A: Just telling them the way Jerry was and … regardless of what he had to do, he always was there for the children’s birthdays. The family came first after God. Anything that the kids wanted to do, that I wanted to do, he was always there for us. We came first after the Lord.




Eds: See mainbar, RNS-FALWELL-SONS, transmitted May 7, 2008.

A photo of Macel and Jerry Falwell is available via

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