Key dates in the life of Tony Alamo

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c. 2008 Religion News Service

(UNDATED) Tony Alamo timeline:

1934: Bernie Lazar Hoffman is born in Joplin, Mo. He later calls himself Tony Alamo, inspired by popular Italian American singers, such as Frank Sinatra and Perry Como.

1964: Alamo claims that, while working as a Los Angeles music promoter, God strikes him temporarily deaf and tells him to spread the word that Jesus will soon return.

1966: Alamo marries Susan Lipowitz, an aspiring actress. They legally change their names to Tony and Susan Alamo and start their religious work.

1969: The Tony and Susan Alamo Foundation is formed and begins ministering to Hollywood street kids.

1970: The Alamos open a church and several businesses north of Los Angeles. Followers are told that if they leave they will die, go insane or turn into homosexuals.

1975: The Alamos move to Alma, Ark., and open a church and many businesses, including a nightclub. Bill Clinton visits the nightclub to see Dolly Parton perform and describes Tony Alamo as “Roy Orbison on speed.”

1976: The U.S. Labor Department charges that Alamo failed to pay employees who manufacture “Tony Alamo” brand sequined denim jackets. He loses the suit and a 1985 U.S. Supreme Court appeal.

1982: Susan Alamo dies of cancer. Her body is kept on display for six months while their followers pray for her resurrection.

1985: The IRS revokes the tax-exempt status of Alamo’s church.

1988: Alamo is charged with child abuse for ordering followers to beat an 11-year-old boy. Prosecutors drop the charge, citing lack of evidence. The child’s parents sue Alamo and win a $1.5 million judgment.

1991: The body of Susan Alamo is taken from a mausoleum on the sect’s compound in Arkansas after federal marshals seize the property to satisfy a legal judgment.

1993: A Memphis, Tenn., grand jury indicts Alamo for evading income taxes in the late 1980s. Alamo becomes a fugitive. The FBI warns that he “is always accompanied by bodyguards who have access to numerous weapons, to include M-14 rifles.”

1994: Alamo is convicted on the tax-related charges. He serves four years in prison and owes the government $7.9 million.

1998: Alamo is released from prison, moves to Fouke, Ark., and re-establishes his church.

2006: Fouke officials praise Alamo for his acts of “Christian love and kindness.” Locals feel less kindly when Alamo posts armed guards along the road to his compound.

2007: Tony Alamo Christian Ministries is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its anti-Catholic statements. Alamo is implicated in the illegal sale of mattresses donated to Hurricane Katrina victims.

Sept. 20, 2008: Federal and state authorities, prompted by allegations of child pornography, conduct a search at Tony Alamo Christian Ministries. Child welfare workers take custody of six children.

_ Sources: Los Angeles Times; Southern Poverty Law Center; The Associated Press; “My Life,” Bill Clinton

(Michelle Roberts writes for The Oregonian in Portland, Ore.)

KRE DS END RNS500 words

Eds: see mainbar, RNS-ALAMO-COMPOUND, transmitted Sept. 22, 2008.

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