Gene Amondson

Gene Amondson
Gene Amondson
Born October 15, 1943
Morton, Washington
Died July 20, 2009(2009-07-20) (aged 65)
Occupation Artist, minister, activist
Known for Prohibition Party presidential nominee (2004, 2008)

Gene Amondson, (October 15, 1943[1]– July 20, 2009) was a landscape painter, woodcarver, Christian minister and prohibition activist who was the 2004 US presidential candidate for one faction of the Prohibition Party (Concerns of People Party) and the nominee of the unified party in 2008.

Amondson was known for his anti-Alcohol activism and reenactments of sermons by preacher Billy Sunday. He was an active member in the community of Vashon Island, Washington, and was described as a "colorful" character. During press inquiries, he often repeated such prohibition slogans as: "Prohibition was America's greatest 13 years" and "drinking responsibly is like teaching a pig to eat with a spoon. Can't happen."[2] He died in 2009 after suffering a stroke.



Gene Amondson was born to Owen and Ruby Amondson[3] in Morton, Washington near the city of Centralia. His mother was a German American homemaker, originally from Nebraska[4] and his father, who was nicknamed "Red", was a Norwegian American[5] logger, an industry which at the time was rampant with alcoholism. When he was a child, neither of his parents drank,[2] but young Gene was exposed to drunken logger fights, attended school with children who were neglected by alcoholic parents, and witnessed the molestation of a five year old by a drunk logger.[6] Gene was also exposed to politics. His uncle, Orville "Porky" Amondson was elected and served as sheriff in Lewis County,[7][8] and his brother Neil later served in the Washington State Senate as a member of the Republican Party.[9] Amondson attended Warner Pacific College in Portland, Oregon, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology. In college, he occasionally drank wine. His anti-alcohol views did not take root until he attended Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky in 1966, and learned about temperance leader and preacher Billy Sunday. Amondson estimated that after divinity school, he drank beer about twice a year. In the 1970s, he moved to Vashon Island, Washington, a liberal community, and preached at Cove Road Church.[2] He described himself as a "red-neck, Bible-thumbing preacher."[10]

Amondson wields a chainsaw in allusion to Carrie Nation's hatchet

In the years that followed, he grew closer to the Prohibition movement, and went on tours throughout the nation reenacting the Billy Sunday sermons Get on the Water Wagon,[2] Booze,[11] and The Sermon Against Alcohol.[12] In his later years, Amondson split his time between Vashon Island and Alaska, where he would hunt and find landscapes to paint.[12] He cited painters John Singer Sargent and Joaquín Sorolla as influences on his painting,[5] and his lifesized woodcarvings were found scattered throughout Vashon Island.[3] Along with painting and woodcarving, Amondson was an avid pie baker and published a book that compiled his mother's pie recipes.[13]

Amondson was known to drive around in a Honda Civic accessorized with a fake elk head on the front and a license plate that read "Vote Dry."[3] The car was also decorated with homemade bumper stickers that read "Dumb People Drink" and "Your Kids Need You Sober."[13] In 2008, the car was installed with a "hydrogen conversion kit" that allowed it to be fueled by gasoline and water using electrolysis, significantly improving gas mileage. Amondson's car was one of the first in the nation to be fitted with such a kit.[14]

Amondson was married for 23 years and had four sons and one daughter, before divorcing.[15] One of his sons died in infancy, and his remaining four children all became involved in the motion picture industry upon adulthood.[12] In 1993, he appeared as a guest on Oprah after writing a letter to the show expressing his interest in the 40,000 single women who hoped to win a date with five widowers from Seattle. He wrote that he would take the women that the widowers passed on, and explained that he was lonely and wanted someone that was "willing to work to help pay the taxes...and my child support." The Oprah staffers who received the letter, commented that they were "quite interested" and "surprised" by Amondson's persona.[16][17] On the show, he discussed his artwork,[12] and was later invited for a second appearance. Counting repeats, Amondson appeared on the show four times.[17] Afterwards, he received hundreds of letters from interested individuals.[18]


I'm going to fight booze until hell freezes over, and then I'm going to buy a pair of ice skates and fight it some more.

Gene Amondson[13]

Amondson would often visit churches, prisons,[13] schools and attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to spread his anti-Alcohol message. As a protest, he often stood outside liquor establishments dressed as the Grim Reaper,[19] and once stood outside a courtroom to protest Jim Beam after a couple sued the company claiming the drink caused their son to be mentally retarded. During a 1989 interview, Amondson explained that he did not protest the individuals that drank, but the large corporations that distributed liquor. Each time he passed a tavern in his car, he would honk his horn twice in protest.[6]

In the early 1990s, Amondson traveled to New Zealand and discussed the temperance movement.[16] The trip was financed by the Women's Christian Temperance Union.[19] He also traveled to Africa on a similar trip.[20] In 2005, he led a movement to stop the Washington legislature from allowing alcohol to be sold on Sundays. He remarked: "One more day a week in limited areas will mean a lot more alcohol will be sold, a few more children will suffer."[21] Amondson also provided low rent housing for low income individuals on Vashon Island. He appeared in court a few times for zoning difficulties relating to the housing complexes and was aided by the Interfaith Council on Homelessness.[22]

Presidential campaigns


In 2003, Amondson was approached by James Hedges, the Tax assessor for Thompson Township, Pennsylvania, and the Prohibition Party's only elected official. He convinced Amondson to seek the nomination of his faction of the Prohibition Party, which split over perennial presidential nominee Earl Dodge's leadership of the party, believing that he was more interested in his campaign button business than advancing the party's goals. Dodge had run as the party's nominee in every election since 1984, and received only 208 votes in the 2000 election, down approximately 1,000 from the 1996 election. Amondson soon began his campaign and was nominated as the Presidential candidate of the Prohibition Party faction.[13] Dodge was nominated for president by the other faction, and explained that Amondson was "probably a very nice man...[but] he may not have known exactly what he was getting into."[13] Amondson would not criticize his opponent, whom he previously contacted to serve as the Vice Presidential nominee, stating that "Dodge is a good man. I am a good man...We both have the message that alcohol is for dumb people."[23] "But Dodge is just not getting the job done. He's too old. We need to send it to an earlier generation."[13] He went on to discuss the Prohibition issue, responding to concerns that Prohibition causes crime, stating that he would "rather have 100 Al Capones in every city than alcohol sold in every grocery store."[23]

During the campaign, Amondson made an appearance on The Daily Show with comedian Jon Stewart.[2] He spoke with correspondent Ed Helms who joked with the candidate. Amondson played along, but was serious when he remarked that "alcohol cuts the supply of oxygen to the brain and puts you in a kind of retarded state."[24] A short clip followed that showed Amondson in his Grim Reaper attire. Earl Dodge also appeared on the show.[24]

The race between Amondson and Dodge was seen as a way of determining which faction would lead the party in the future. Amondson achieved ballot access in Louisiana as the nominee of the Prohibition Party and in Colorado as the nominee of the Concerns of People Party. Dodge achieved ballot access only in Colorado, where he was listed as the nominee of the Prohibition Party. Overall, Amondson won the contest, collecting 1896 (1512 of those were from Louisiana) votes compared to Dodge's 140. As expected, Amondson placed well behind both major candidates (George W. Bush received 1.1 million votes, and John Kerry received over 1 million votes). He placed eighth in a slate of 12 presidential candidates on Colorado's ballot (Dodge placed last, even though it was his home state). Amondson's third place finish in four Louisiana parishes was the first time since 1960 that the Prohibition Party candidate for President out polled all other minor party candidates for President in any county.[25][26][27][28]


2008 campaign logo

Amondson was nominated for President at the 2008 Prohibition Party National Convention in Indianapolis; about 10 to 15 people attended the event.[29] Earl Dodge died late in 2007, which reunified the split party. Similar to 2004, Amondson's campaign was based on interviews with the media.[29] He interviewed with Wikinews in June 2008, and admitted that third party candidates such as himself have no chance of winning elections. Instead, he remarked, they "say wise things."[9] He commented that he would favor the election of a Republican candidate over a Democrat because of the difference in justices nominated to the Supreme Court, and the policy of the candidate toward Israel. Amondson stated that he would have liked to have former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich as his running mate, but the designation went to Leroy Pletten.[9] Pletten was incapacitated for some time during the campaign after suffering a stroke.[29]

During the summer, Amondson campaigned in Louisiana and walked Bourbon Street dressed as the Grim Reaper to protest alcohol.[30] While in New Orleans, he filmed a documentary with his three sons. Amondson also took a stand on issues other than alcohol; he declared his support for the War in Iraq and tougher immigration laws, and advocated limits on divorce, more religion in schools and a decrease in public welfare.[31] In an August interview he explained: "We want to have protected borders and keep our gun rights and a lot of conservative things, but the main thing is help America realize that 95 percent of violent crime is connected with alcohol."[29] After John McCain selected Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate, Amondson complimented the Republican for picking a "beautiful woman". Despite his own campaign, Amondson effectively endorsed McCain, and stated that he would probably vote for him.[30] Amondson attained ballot access in Colorado, Louisiana and Florida by Election Day,[32] and received a total of 653 votes.[33]


On July 18, 2009, Amondson, who had previously been diagnosed with hypertension, suffered a brain aneurism which caused him to fall into a coma. He died on July 20, 2009 at Harborview Medical Center.[12][34][35] His death came two days after marrying a couple and attending a local strawberry festival. He was survived by his mother, his two brothers, his sister and his four children. The funeral was held on July 25 at the Bethel Evangelical Free Church in Vashon Island and was followed by a "pie and ice cream social".[3]

See also


  1. ^ "Amondson, Gene C.". Randy Parker. Retrieved April 17, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Lewis, Mike (November 1, 2004). "U.S. presidential candidate has single plank: No booze". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Hearst Seattle Media, LLC. Retrieved May 10, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d Heagerty, Amelia (July 22, 2009). "Colorful Islander Gene Amondson dies". Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber. Sound Publishing, Inc.. Retrieved May 13, 2010. 
  4. ^ "Gene Amondson's Children's Stories". Gene Amondson. 2008. Retrieved May 13, 2010. 
  5. ^ a b "Gene Amondson's Profile". Gene Amondson. 2008. Retrieved May 13, 2010. 
  6. ^ a b Welch, Bob (May 11, 1989). "The Real Grim Reaper takes Message to Courthouse". Journal-American. Retrieved May 11, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Suspect Refuses Lie Test". Tri City Herald (Associated Press): pp. 2. October 8, 1959.,1160921&dq=amondson&hl=en. Retrieved April 21, 2010. 
  8. ^ "50 Men Probe Lake For Fliers". Tri City Herald (Associated Press): pp. 1. February 7, 1959.,753667&dq=amondson&hl=en. Retrieved April 21, 2010. 
  9. ^ a b c Saturn, William (June 6, 2008). "Wikinews interviews Gene Amondson, Prohibition Party presidential nominee". Wikinews. Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved April 17, 2010. 
  10. ^ Kelly, David (September 20, 2004). "Candidate is high on Prohibition". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 10, 2010. 
  11. ^ "Temperance Convention". Spartanburg Herald-Journal (Spartanburg, South Carolina: New York Times Company): pp. C5. August 26, 1989.,3818092&dq=gene-amondson&hl=en. Retrieved April 21, 2010. 
  12. ^ a b c d e "Gene Amondson". The Prohibition Party. Retrieved April 17, 2010. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g Kershaw, Sarah (October 1, 2004). "In Search of Voters, Prohibition Candidate Runs Dry". New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved May 10, 2010. 
  14. ^ Heagerty, Amelia (September 17, 2008). "Islander’s car gets a boost from hydrogen". Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber. Sound Publishing, Inc.. Retrieved May 13, 2010. 
  15. ^ "Gene Amondson". Politics1. Ron Gunzburger. 1997-2007. Retrieved April 17, 2010. 
  16. ^ a b Hahn, Jon (November 18, 1993). "Seizing a 'Single' Opportunity". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Hearst Seattle Media, LLC. pp. C2. Retrieved May 11, 2010. 
  17. ^ a b "Gene Amondson on Oprah's Sleepless in Seattle". Gene Amondson's Life, Art and Mission. Self published. 2008. Retrieved April 17, 2010. 
  18. ^ Hahn, Jon (December 16, 1993). "Mate Seeker is 'Hopeful in Seattle'". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Hearst Seattle Media, LLC. pp. C2. Retrieved May 11, 2010. 
  19. ^ a b "Gene Amondson's Grim Reaper Anti-alcohol Message". Gene Amondson. 2002. Retrieved May 11, 2010. 
  20. ^ "Gene Amondson – International Speaker to Kids in Schools and Prisons". Gene Amondson. 2002. Retrieved May 13, 2010. 
  21. ^ Lewis, Mike (April 8, 2005). "Sunday liquor sales have foe in minister who ran for president". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Seattle Media, LLC. Retrieved May 11, 2010. 
  22. ^ Heagerty, Amelia (May 28, 2008). "Run-in with King county over codes highlights affordable housing crisis". Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber. Sound Publishing, Inc.. Retrieved May 13, 2010. 
  23. ^ a b Weller, Robert (September 9, 2004). "Battle brewing for the teetotaler vote". USA Today (Associated Press). Retrieved January 28, 2010. 
  24. ^ a b "Gene on the Daily Show". Gene Amondson. 2008. Retrieved May 14, 2010. 
  25. ^ "East Carroll Parish Results". USA Election Atlas. David Leip. 2005. Retrieved April 17, 2010. 
  26. ^ "Red River Parish Results". USA Election Atlas. David Leip. 2005. Retrieved April 17, 2010. 
  27. ^ "St. James Parish Results". USA Election Atlas. David Leip. 2005. Retrieved April 17, 2010. 
  28. ^ "West Feliciana Parish Results". USA Election Atlas. David Leip. 2005. Retrieved April 17, 2010. 
  29. ^ a b c d Moe, John (August 2, 2008). "Sober Up and Fly Right". Weekend America. American Public Media. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  30. ^ a b Ahren,, Raphael (April 6, 2008). "Though declining, Prohibitionists still pursue presidency". Orlando Sentinel. Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  31. ^ Schulze, Travis (May 30, 2008). "Third parties vie for 2008 glory". The Lantern. The Lantern. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  32. ^ Recio, Maria (November 3, 2008). "It's a big election for the little parties, too". McClatchy Newspapers. McClatchy Washington Bureau. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  33. ^ "2008 Presidential Popular Vote Summary for all candidates listed on at least one state ballot". FEC. United States Government. Retrieved April 19, 2010. 
  34. ^ "Gene Amondson Dies". Ballot Access News. Richard Winger. July 21, 2009. Retrieved April 17, 2010. 
  35. ^ Saturn, William (July 22, 2009). "Former U.S. Presidential candidate Gene Amondson dies following a stroke". Wikinews. Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved April 17, 2010. 

External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
Earl F. Dodge
Prohibition Party Presidential candidate
2004, 2008
Succeeded by
Jack Fellure

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