Alamo ministry resurrected 

Fouke residents worry about notorious evangelist in their midst.

click to enlarge BETTER DAYS
  • BETTER DAYS

Fouke isn't a town so much as a crossroads, a Miller County outpost in Southwest Arkansas, on Highway 71 between Texarkana and Shreveport. The businesses at its center can be counted on two hands; the city hall is a prefab metal structure. Until recently, its main claim to fame was the Fouke Monster, which, like similar mythical beasts, has inspired a weird combination of fear and pride in the people who live near its territory.

The monster has gone into hibernation since its manifestation in 1971, but the 814 residents of Fouke aren't free of their demons just yet. Just a five-minute walk from the town's traffic light lives another reclusive creature that, to some people at least, is much scarier than the Fouke Monster, one that is demonstrably flesh and blood. His name is World Pastor Tony Alamo, and nine years after from his release from prison on tax evasion charges, he's in back in business, with churches in Fouke, Fort Smith and California.

He's also apparently back under the scrutiny of the law. In a recent article in the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report, a woman said she and others have contacted the State Police about Alamo's practice of polygamy and taste for young girls. Maj. Cleve Barfield, commander of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Arkansas State Police, confirmed that there is an ongoing investigation of Alamo and his organization.

***

Alamo often compares himself to the Apostle Paul. Like Paul, Alamo was a hater of Christ; like Paul, he received the Gospel through direct revelation; like Paul, he ministers based on that revelation. And, as many a Wal-Mart shopper can confirm, Alamo shares Paul's epistolic habits. He is famous for his virulently anti-Catholic tracts, plastered on windshields, circulated more widely — the tracts claim — than USA Today, the New York Times and the L.A. Times combined.

Though the age of mechanical reproduction gives Alamo an edge on his prophetic forebears, he trails them in converts. Nor does he appear to have their capacity for the hard work of proselytizing. Christ wandered the Middle East; Paul preached across the Mediterranean; Muhammad conquered the Arabian Peninsula and beyond. Tony Alamo has a fenced-off property in Fouke.

There, Alamo-watchers fear, Alamo's famous Alma compound is being reincarnated.

***

It was in Alma, in Northwest Arkansas, that Alamo, who previously lived in California, took his mandate from God and turned it into a cash cow. In 1982, he and his wife Susan bought land, businesses and began to live with followers in a secret compound. They held political sway — they helped elect the mayor of nearby Dyer (and were investigated by the FBI for election fraud) — and their enterprises, registered under the umbrella of a nonprofit foundation, were worth an estimated $60 million by 1985. His most lucrative source of income was Alamo Designs, which specialized in elaborately air-brushed and rhinestone-studded denim jackets. These sold for hundreds of dollars and were wildly popular, especially in Nashville, where Alamo set up a clothing outlet. They also gave Alamo inroads with celebrities who wore them, such as Sonny Bono and Mr. T, outdated photos of whom still appear in the pamphlets the church distributes.

Alamo's employees were church members, and he paid them slave wages. When the Department of Labor got word of the setup, it filed suit against him for violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. In 1985, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Alamo had to pay his workers a minimum wage. The church's tax exempt status was revoked the same year.

Comments (5)

Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

More by Fritz Brantley

  • He talks, and talks, the talk

    A fellow posted an old newspaper article on his blog about a Mike Huckabee speech to a religious group in 1998. A friend faxed the article to me, then called to ask if I’d yet read it, which I had.
    • Dec 20, 2007
  • The incredible shrinking Huckabee

    Plus: COPS!
    • Dec 20, 2007
  • The Week That Was, Dec. 20

    The UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS. After our deadline last week, they landed a football coach, the collegiately successful — but personality-challenged — Bobby Petrino. Petrino fled a losing record with the Atlanta Falcons, who hurled insults at him in his wake.
    • Dec 20, 2007
  • More »

More by John Williams

Most Shared

  • Opinions split within GOP on "law and order" issues. Where will Asa stand?

    The New York Times reports that some Republicans are trending away from the lock-em-up-and-throw-away-the-key approach to criminal justice embraced by the party's old guard, in part out of a recognition that minority votes matter now more than ever. Asa Hutchinson wants to reach out to black voters — what better place to start?
  • Humanists sue over Baxter County nativity scene. Looks like another winner

    The Baxter Bulletin reported today on a lawsuit filed on behalf of a Baxter County resident over the Nativity scene that has been erected on the Baxter County Courthouse lawn for decades by local lawyer Rick Spencer.
  • Live: Weedhorse, Flat Top Tony and John Neal Rock and Roll at Revolution (Photos)

    I arrived at The Rev Room Friday at 7:15 p.m., as a bartender was setting up for a busy night. I saw Mark Colbert (soundman) and Mark Sadler (lighting) and we talked shop a while. I saw Samantha "Sam" Allen (venue manager) and we caught up as well. Soon I met and interviewed Richie Barnard, the website coordinator for the Little Rock Scene, whose 10 Year Anniversary we were here to celebrate.
  • Here's to Hutchinson, McCain and American revulsion at torture

    On Nov. 16, 1776, Gen. George Washington stood on the Jersey Palisades and peered across the Hudson River through his telescope as the British tortured American militiamen who had surrendered and then put them to the sword. Hearing the screams of his men, according to an aide, Washington turned and sobbed "with the tenderness of a child."
  • Easy on the pay raises

    An independent commission appointed by the governor, legislative leaders and the chief justice began work last week to fulfill part of Issue 3, the constitutional amendment that eased term limits, banned lobbyist gifts to legislators (sort of) and provided a mechanism for pay raises.

Latest in Cover Stories

  • Best and worst 2014

    It's our annual roundup of the year's dumbest, weirdest, oddest, strangest and all-around Arkansasiest.
    • Dec 25, 2014
  • Big Ideas for Arkansas 2014

    Readers and experts suggest ways to change Arkansas for the better.
    • Dec 18, 2014
  • Waltz

    Tomorrow when the authorities find Timothy Manning's body, the 16 year old will be face down at the edge of a cornfield at the end of Corning Road.
    • Dec 11, 2014
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31  

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2014 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation