Name at birth: Jimmy Lee Swaggart
Jimmy Swaggart's stardom from religious telecasts and packed arena revivals was overshadowed when he was caught patronizing a prostitute and made a teary, televised confession. At age 8, he drew his poor, rural Louisiana town's attention when he mystically spoke in foreign tongues and uttered prophecies at a Pentecostal church revival. As a teenage evangelist and later as a pastor and traveling preacher, he used his commanding stage presence to emphasize submission to Jesus as the only way to escape human bondage to sin and Satan. By the 1980s, his Baton Rouge church had its own broadcast and publishing operations and a college. After the 1987 incident with New Orleans prostitute Debra Murphree was revealed in 1988, Swaggart's ministerial credentials were revoked by his denomination, the Assemblies of God, when he refused a year-long disciplinary hiatus. His ministry, now independent, continued, as did his occasional controversies. In 1991, he was caught with another prostitute in California. In 2004, remarking on gay marriage, he said he would kill a gay man who looked at him a certain way.
A pianist and singer, Swaggart appeared in a high school talent show with his cousins, Jerry Lee Lewis, later of rock-and-roll fame, and Mickey Gilley, later a country music star… In 1952, Swaggart, 17, married the former Frances Anderson, 15. She and their son, Donnie (born 1954), have worked full-time in Swaggart’s ministries… At their zenith in the late 1980s, those ministries included 1,500 employees, broadcasts reaching 195 countries, a Family Worship Center seating 7,500, and the Jimmy Swaggart Bible College with 1,451 students.