American Family Association founder Don Wildmon dies at 85

 December 30, 2023

This story was originally published by the WND News Center.

A pioneer of the pro-family movement, Rev. Donald Wildmon, founder of the American Family Association and American Family Radio, passed away Thursday, Dec. 28, in Tupelo, Miss., at age 85.

Wildmon, born in 1938, started out as a pastor, serving as a United Methodist minister for 13 years. However, as the AFA's website notes, in the late 1970s, troubled by the profanity and indecency he saw on television, Wildmon founded the Mississippi-based American Family Association – at first, from his kitchen table. A decade and a half later, in 1991, the AFA spun off American Family Radio, which currently has 1.5 to 2 two million listeners.

Wildmon's son and current AFA president, Tim Wildmon, said his father's many accomplishments in pursuit of preserving America's traditional, moral, family-oriented culture never went to his head. "Those were the visions that God gave him to start," said Tim, "and he was a servant of the Lord and he followed through with what the Lord gave him to do."

Others offered heartfelt remembrances of Wildmon and his lasting impact on America:

Pastor Bert Harper of "Exploring the Word" on American Family Radio, and who spent years on AFA's board of directors, told American Family News, "Brother Don Wildmon was a visionary. He could see down the road 10 years ahead of time."

Dr. Alex McFarland, Harper's co-host of "Exploring the Word," called Wildmon "an amazingly influential, wonderfully faithful" man of God, adding: "In the late 1970s, as our nation was beginning a moral and spiritual decline, God raised up some leaders who would ultimately change the world and our nation for the good. Certainly, one of the most prominent was the late Dr. Don Wildmon. … He set in motion an influence for the gospel that only God could measure. What a legacy he leaves, what an example for us all."

Ted Beahr, chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission and editor of Movieguide, said: "Don had an ability to not just target the exact right problem, but he also had ability to galvanize people."

Dr. James Dobson, founder of "Focus on the Family" and currently the host of "Family Talk," said the biggest driver of Wildmon's legacy would be his courage, telling AFN: "I think it would be his fearlessness in taking on big corporations and the powerful executives who scared everybody else."

Likewise, Dr. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of the huge First Baptist Dallas church, and who hosts a daily radio program on AFR, commented: "Don Wildmon was a true pioneer in encouraging pastors like myself and thousands of others to speak out on the great moral issues of the day. He will be sorely missed by a country that needs him more than ever right now. We pray for the Wildmon family, and wish them every encouragement from Heaven that they will see Don again in Heaven, with all of the rewards he deserves."

And AFA executive vice president Ed Vitagliano summarized the loss of Donald Wildmon this way:

"Bro. Don Wildmon was an extraordinary man and an extraordinary figure in American culture. Because of the humility of Brother Don, sometimes it is hard to gauge the impact he had – but his vision for a Christian community that was active in politics and culture was part of a movement we believe of the Holy Spirit in this country."

"It was not just Brother Don; it was Jerry Falwell and Dr. James Dobson and Phyllis Schlafly and others who understood the direction that this country was taking and knew that the Church had to speak up – that the Church could not censor itself and be paralyzed by a culture that wanted to intimidate the Christian community and make them silent.

"Brother Don's vision was huge in our culture, extremely influential, and because he and his wife, Lynda, raised strong children, strong in the Christian faith, who now have grandchildren who continue that legacy, AFA and AFR continue the vision and the passion of Brother Don to see this nation return to a place of faithfulness to God that we might be a nation once again whose God is the Lord."

"It is sad for those of us here at AFA and AFR. This really is like a family. This is a hard moment, a difficult moment for us, very sad, but we also believe in the resurrection and the power of God to take away – through the resurrection of Christ – the sting of death. We know Bro. Don is in Heaven with his Lord whom he served faithfully and with others in his family, others that he knows from that movement to get people involved in culture. We are happy for Brother Don and we do covet the prayers of our faithful listeners and supporters for the Wildmon family and for this ministry. We continue to ask them to pray for our nation and pray that God might send a revival and an awakening that will restore the biblical foundations of this country."

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