Garner Ted Armstrong

Garner Ted Armstrong

Infobox Person
name = Garner Ted Armstrong

image_size =
caption =
birth_name =
birth_date = birth date|1930|02|09
birth_place = Portland, Oregon, U.S.
death_date = death date and age|2003|09|12|1930|02|09
death_place =
death_cause =
resting_place = Gladewater Memorial Park (Gladewater, Texas)
resting_place_coordinates =
residence = Portland, OR (1930–1932); Eugene, OR (1932–1946); Pasadena, CA (1946–1978); Tyler, TX (1978–2003)
nationality = American
other_names = William Talboy Wright (pseudonym used for his book "Churchill's Gold")
known_for = Voice of The World Tomorrow, President of Ambassador University (1975–1978)
education = BA (1956), MA (1960), Ph.D. (1964), Ambassador University
employer = Worldwide Church of God (1955–1978), Church of God International (1978–1998), Intercontinental Church of God (1998–2003)
occupation = Minister, Author, Educator, Radio and Television Commentator
title = Vice-President, Radio/Worldwide Church of God (1958–1978); President, Ambassador University (1975–1978); President, Garner Ted Armstrong Evangelistic Association (1978–2003)
salary =
networth =
height =
weight =
term =
predecessor =
successor = Herbert W. Armstrong (as President of Ambassador University); Mark Armstrong (as leader of the Intercontinental Church of God)
party = Independent (though conservative leaning)
boards =
religion = Church of God
spouse = Shirley Hammer Armstrong
partner =
children = Mark Armstrong (b. 1953), David Dale Armstrong (b. 1955), Matthew Ted Armstrong (b. 1956)
parents = Herbert W. & Loma D. Armstrong
relatives = Uncle Dwight L. Armstrong, Christian hymn composer

website =
footnotes =

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 strict observance of a seventh-day sabbath, holy days typically associated with the Jewish faith, and other observances derived from the Old Testament scriptures.

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 most other religious broadcasters of his day.

Brief biography

Armstrong was born in Portland, Oregon, to Loma Isabelle (Dillon) and Herbert W. Armstrong. [ [ Ancestry of Garner Ted 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 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 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 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 (Armstrong had arranged for "Hee Haw" co-host Buck Owens to entertain attendees at the WCG's annual convention one year), and his apparent authorship of a novel, "Churchill's Gold" (not to be confused with a book by James Follet), 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). [ [ Ancestry of Garner Ted Armstrong ] ]

Childhood, Youth, and Military Service: 1930-1955

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 1600s with William Penn. The ancestry was traced to Edward I of England, and according to the Church's teaching on the identity of the descendants of the ancient Israelites, back to King Herremon of [Ireland] , and ultimately to King David of ancient Israel. Garner Ted's grandmother was "something like a third cousin to former President Herbert Hoover" ("Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong, Vol. I", 1967 edition, pp. 25-26).

He was baptized in early 1953 (Origin and History, p. 36).

Early Ministry: 1955-1971

Garner Ted Armstrong was ordained to the ministry by his father in 1955. G.T. Armstrong later reported in a sermon that he didn't want to be a minister, to which his father answered something to the effect that because he didn't 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 travelled extensively through South America. As a fluent Spanish speaker, he made several Spanish language broadcasts of the World Tomorrow.

Armstrong conducted a major evangelistic campaign in Springfield, Missouri during the summer of 1958, around the time of the death of his brother Richard David Armstrong near San Luis Obispo, California.

In June 1959, Armstrong traveled with his father to Denmark, England, Rome, Italy and Monte Carlo to promote the World Tomorrow program. The younger Armstrong later described this trip as a positive bonding experience between father and son in the wake of the death of Richard David the previous year. It was during this trip that the Armstrongs discovered the property outside London that would later serve as the Bricket Wood campus of Ambassador College. Later that year, the younger Armstrong visited Australia and the Philippines to help oversee the overseas development of the Church's infrastructure.

In 1961, he was dispatched to Berlin to cover the growing tensions that led to the construction of the Berlin Wall.

After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, Armstrong delivered an emotional message live on the World Tomorrow. He later reported that this was the most requested episode of the World Tomorrow broadcast.

Following a brief 1955 experiment on television by his father, Garner Ted Armstrong launched a televised version of the World Tomorrow in 1967. He would be the chief television host until 1978.

In 1968, he interviewed Franz Joseph Strauss for the World Tomorrow.

Challenging Times: 1971-1978

The 1970s brought a series of reversals for Armstrong's career.

Ironically, 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". [ [ Contents- US & BC 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. 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. [ [ Church Doctrines (Systematic Theology Project) ] ]

Garner Ted's 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. [ [ John Trechak, "Power Struggle", "Ambassador Report"] , Issue 5, April, 1978. ] 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 multi-million 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"; a new and slick commercial publication called "Quest magazine"; 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 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 [ [ 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. 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.

Post 1978 Ministry

Garner Ted Armstrong continued his ministry through the Church of God, International in the years that followed. During this time, he appeared on both the John Ankerberg Show and the Oprah Winfrey Show.

He continued to conduct personal appearance campaigns throughout the United States, Australia, Jamaica, and Canada, although on a much smaller scale than during his heyday in the 1970s. During the 1980s, he was in Jamaica when a major hurricane (Hurricane Hugo?) 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. This 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. [ [ Transcript and Video of Geraldo Rivera's interview with GTA's masseuse] ] 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 the Geraldo show to discuss the incident (although he had appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show several years back.) His next move was to heighten the profile of his Garner Ted Armstrong Evangelistic Association and he established, in 1998, the Intercontinental Church of God, [ [ Intercontinental Church of God - Home ] ] which he headed until his death in 2003 due to complications from pneumonia [ [ Evangelist Garner Ted Armstrong dies ] ] . Upon Armstrong's death, country music artist Merle Haggard stated, ""Right 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. There was a period where I didn't even want to watch the news to see who else was gone."

Following his death in September 2003, Garner Ted was laid to rest in Gladewater Memorial Park, approximately two miles east of the former Big Sandy 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 Hideaway Bay area of Flint, a small community outside Tyler, Texas.

Rather than selecting a new media spokesman, the evangelistic association continues to broadcast old programs made by Garner Ted on approximately 30 television stations and cable outlets [ [ Garner Ted Armstrong TV/Radio Page ] ] . The Intercontinental Church of God 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 is not an ordained minister, but functions as CEO of the organizations.


*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)



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 978973637159-2.

External links

* [ Intercontinental Church of God homepage]
* [ Garner Ted Armstrong Evangelistic Association homepage]
* [ Obituary, The New York Times]
* [ Obituary, The Los Angeles Times]
* [ Church Of God International - Home]

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