Billy McCormack

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Billy Ervin McCormack (August 4, 1928 - May 31, 2012)[1] was a Southern Baptist clergyman from Shreveport, Louisiana, active for more than sixty years in the ministry and a figure in the Religious Right. He was one of four national directors of the Christian Coalition of America, founded in 1989 by televangelist Pat Robertson.[2]

From 1981 until his death, McCormack was the senior pastor of the University Worship Center, or University Baptist Church, at 9000 East Kings Highway in Shreveport. Prior to that time, he had been the pastor of three other area congregations. He was the founder and headmaster of Trinity Heights Christian Academy and University Christian Prep School, both at 4800 Old Morringsport Road, and the University Montessori School at 9000 East Kings Highway.[3]


Contents

Background

McCormack was born in Jamestown in Bienville Parish in north Louisiana to Charles T. "Charlie" McCormack (1904-1981) and Ida Mae McCormack (1908-1999),[4] some two years before the outbreak of the Great Depression. McCormack describes his rural upbringing, and resulting political philosophy, accordingly:

I was a son of a sharecropper. ... People talk about African Americans who endured the rigors of sharecropping, but there were plenty of us white people who suffered the same hardship. My father literally dug a living out of the dirt. He never complained. He always whistled happily when coming to the house after a long work day. He worked til dark every day and a half day on Saturday. His education was limited. He had only four years of elementary school. Even so he had an appetite for reading. He had little or no money but he subscribed to the morning paper and many times he would suscribe to the evening paper. He became a fan of Huey P. Long. He was not mesmerized by him, but [thought Long] ...would find a way to help poor people like him to get a break in life. As governor of Louisiana, Long had blacktopped the roads, made education more accessible to the poor, and brought Louisiana into the 20th century. Elected to the U.S. Senate, he had big plans for the entire nation. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had great concerns of Huey's popularity... [Long's] message was resonating with depression-plaqued people across the country. Some people, to this day, believe FDR arranged Long's assassination. ...
Huey P. Long was a very wealthy man. He was unscrupulous in his acquiring a fortune and he passed it on to his children and they to their children ... Socialist leaders always find a way to get wealth and hand out crumbs to the poor to keep them in line and stay in power. History is trying to repeat itself. Socialists are preaching the distribution of wealth in the same manner as Huey P. Long, but with a more sophisticated twist. They fain identification with the poor in their efforts to control them. Modern-day socialists and communists are well organized in this country. They have been making great strides toward their goal of power and control. Last November's election [2010] may have put brakes on their speed, but they will continue to try to subvert America."[5]

With the Christian Coalition

In l987, McCormack was the Louisiana state coordinator of the "Americans for Robertson" presidential campaign.[6]Pat Robertson's weak showing in the 1988 Republican presidential primaries culminated in the nomination and election of George Herbert Walker Bush to the presidency. Meanwhile, the closing of Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority and the embarrassment from scandals involving several nationally known televangelists, such as Jimmy Swaggart, led the Religious Right to shift its concentration away from direct national politics to efforts in local communities. It was with McCormack's personal encouragement in 1989 that Robertson founded the Christian Coalition, with the young historian Ralph Reed as the first executive director.[7]

McCormack was the director of the Pastor's Council of the Christian Coalition and the southern regional director of the Freedom Council which Robertson established in an effort to recruit Christians into the political and governmental arenas.[6]

In addition to McCormack, the other directors of the Christian Coalition were Robertson himself, Robertson's son, Gordon Robertson, and Dick Weinhold, head of the Texas organization. McCormack also held the title of "vice president" of the coalition.[8] The McCormack-led Robertson forces and other conservative allies in 1988 gained control of the Louisiana Republican State Central Committee. They blocked efforts to denounce David Duke], who from 1989 to 1992 was a controversial member of the Louisiana House of Representatives. Duke waged losing campaigns for governor and U.S. Senator in 1990 and 1991, respectively. McCormack's forces declined to investigate claims that Duke was selling from his House office copies of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf and similar writings.[9]

Although the national GOP, led by Ronald W. Reagan and the first George Bush, repudiated Duke in 1989, when he narrowly won a special election for the state House, it was not until November 1990 that Robertson publicly urged McCormack to "examine" Duke's record. McCormack stopped short of a public endorsement of Duke in the 1991 gubernatorial showdown with Edwin Edwards, Duke still received 69 percent of the white evangelical vote. McCormack was seated next to President Bush at a Conservative Coalition gathering in September 1992 at Robertson's walled estate in Virginia Beach, Virginia.[9]

In early August 1994, McCormack invited Bill Horn and Peter LaBarbera, two opponents of the homosexual rights agenda, to Shreveport to make a presentation. Horn produced the video "The Gay Agenda", and La Barbera edited the newsletter, the Lambda Report. After this meeting, the University Baptist Church burned to the ground. Though arson had been suspected, authorities determined that the facility had instead been struck by lightning.[2]

In 2008, still involved with the Religious Right, McCormack joined other ministers in the endorsement of former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas for the Republican presidential nomination, which was ultimately taken by U.S. Senator John S. McCain of Arizona. In his support for Huckabee, McCormack described the Arkansan as "not only well equipped for the presidency, he has demonstrated godly and righteous leadership in government ... He will unify evangelicals nationwide in one giant move toward the nomination at first and the general election to follow. He is America’s logical choice.”[10]

McCormack has also worked on behalf od civil rights matters. He served on Shreveport's Human Relations Commission, the Black History Committee, the Martin Luther King Birthday Committee. For two years, he chaired the Human Rights Conference.[8]

In the 1950s, McCormack, along with the controversial "New Right" publisher Ned Touchstone of Bossier City, had been an aide to Democratic U.S. Representative Overton Brooks, for whom the Veterans Administration Hospital in Shreveport is named.

Death

McCormack died in Shreveport at the age of eighty-three. He was preceded in death by his first wife, the former Carolyn Tomme, and a brother, Dr. Jack McCormack. He was survived by his second wife of six years, the former Barbara Talley; daughters, Victoria Lynn Williams and husband Charles; Patricia Jane McCormack Reeves, and son, William Michael McCormack and his wife, Cynthia. Services were held at the University Worship Center with Dr. Carlos Spaht, II, the son of a 1952 Louisiana gubernatorial candidate, officiating. Interment was at Providence Cemetery in Ringgold in Bienville Parish.[3]

Daniel Eugene "Dan" Perkins (born 1953), a Republican state senatorial candidate in 1999 against the late Ronald Bean[11] and a Christian Coalition member, served as a pallbearer at McCormack's funeral. Of McCormack, Perkins said: "Though he influenced thousands worldwide, Pastor McCormack would cancel his plans and return home every time a member of his congregation was in need. That repeated scenerio displayed his true heart and "calling" as a pastor above all else. ..."[12]

References

  1. Billy McCormack passes away. KTBS-TV. Retrieved on June 6, 2012.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Religioius Right update. publiceye.org. Retrieved on June 6, 2012.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Dr. Billy Ervin McCormack obituary. Shreveport Times, June 2, 2012. Retrieved on June 5, 2012.
  4. Burials at Providence Cemetery. interment.net. Retrieved on June 6, 2012.
  5. History Is Trying to Repeat Itself, February 23, 2011. cc.org. Retrieved on June 6, 2012.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Pulpits and Politics: The Role of Religion in Elections, September 27, 2004. justicetalking.org. Retrieved on June 6, 2012.
  7. http://www.qrd.org/qrd/www/FTR/christco.html|title=Skip Porteous: The Christian Coalition: An Introduction|publisher=qrd.org|accessdate=June 6, 2012}}
  8. 8.0 8.1 We've Come a Long Way, Baby, in Race Relations, March 16, 2008. demo.openlogicsys.com. Retrieved on June 6, 2012.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Frederick Clarkson, "Church and State, November 1993. theocracywatch.org. Retrieved on June 6, 2012.
  10. Prominent Pastors and Christian Leaders Who Have Endorsed Huckabee. pastors4huckabeeblog.com. Retrieved on June 6, 2012.
  11. Louisiana primary election returns, October 23, 1999. staticresults.sos.la.gov. Retrieved on June 6, 2012.
  12. Billy Ervin McCormack. legacy.com. Retrieved on June 6, 2012.
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