Ed McAteer

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Edward Eugene "Ed" McAteer, Sr.
Ed McAteer.jpg

Born July 29, 1926
Memphis, Tennessee, USA
Died October 6, 2004
East Memphis, Tennessee
Political Party Republican-turned-Independent
Occupation Businessman; political activist
Spouse Faye Carter McAteer
Religion Southern Baptist

Edward Eugene McAteer, Sr., known as Ed McAteer (July 29, 1926 – October 6, 2004), was a businessman from his native Memphis, Tennessee, who in 1979 founded the Religious Roundtable, a group affiliated with the Christian right which sought to meld conservatives of faith into an active role in American politics.


McAteer was converted to Jesus Christ at the age of fourteen.[1] He attended but did not graduate from the University of Memphis, then known as Memphis State University, and briefly enrolled at a law school.[2] He served in the United States Navy during World War II and was a survivor of the first ship sunk by a Japanese kamikaze plane in 1945. He was a former Golden Gloves boxer in Memphis.[3]

For more than twenty years, McAteer was  a sales manager for the southeastern states for Colgate-Palmolive. He left the firm in 1976 to devote full-time to conservative causes.[2]

McAteer and his wife, the former Faye Carter (born November 26, 1924), had two sons living in the Memphis area, Edward, Jr. (born October 1, 1949), of Murfreesboro in Rutherford County, and Timothy Darryl McAteer (born March 13, 1953) of Bartlett in Shelby County, and six grandchildren.[2]

Conservative causes

By the end of the Jimmy Carter administration, issues such as abortion and gay rights attracted major attention. At the "National Affairs Briefing" in Dallas, Texas, in 1980, Ronald W. Reagan, Carter's successful re-election opponent, addressed the Religious Roundtable. According to Newsweek magazine, Reagan, then the former governor of California, said, "I know you can't endorse me. But I want you to know that I endorse you."[2] In his 1999 memoir, A Hill on Which to Die: One Southern Baptist’s Journey, retired Judge Paul Pressler of Houston recalled attending the briefing:

At the urging of some friends, I decided to go [to the briefing in Dallas]. I did not expect much, but when I arrived, I found a packed arena, full of enthusiastic individuals hearing great speakers. I went to the phone after the first few hours, called Nancy [his wife], and said, ‘Get a baby-sitter for the children. You must come up here and hear what is going on.’ She flew to Dallas, and we had the opportunity to attend together. This was the first time either of us had met Ronald Reagan. [Dallas businesswoman] Mary Crowley invited us to a reception for him at the Hyatt. Jimmy Carter had been invited to speak but did not attend.[1]

In a 1981 interview with The New York Times, McAteer said his group was committed to "public policy concerning moral issues," specifically support for school prayer and national defense as well as opposition to abortion, pornography, and communism. John C. Green, a political scientist at the University of Akron in Akron, Ohio, said that McAteer and the better known Jerry Falwell, a Baptist pastor from Lynchburg, Virginia

realized the potential of these folks to be more politically active. And then there were secular leaders who realized the advantage of courting this constituency. So the religious leaders and the secular conservative leaders came together.

If [one goes] back to the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's, evangelical Christians were not very active in politics.  Reforming this world didn't seem to appeal much to people whose whole goal was to get to the next world. ... [Now] many people inside the movement and outside the movement recognized that something new was happening in American politics."[2]

In 1984, McAteer ran as an Independent for the United States Senate seat from Tennessee, a post vacated by the Republican Majority Leader, Howard Henry Baker, Jr. McAteer opposed the Republican nominee, Victor Ashe, later the long-term mayor of Knoxville, who like Baker was considered a Moderate Republican. The easy winner of the race was the Democrat Al Gore, then a U.S. Representative for Tennessee's 4th congressional district and later the vice president under Bill Clinton. McAteer finished with 87,234 votes (5.3 percent) in the contest. Gore won handily despite the easy reelection of President Reagan and Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush.[4]

Falwell, who worked with McAteer and others in the organization of the former Moral Majority, once said that what "the press today calls the 'religious right' was really McAteer's dream."[5] McAteer was particularly known too as a defender of the nation of Israel. He was overshadowed in the national limelight by Falwell and other colleagues, such as televangelist Pat Robertson, and Ralph E. Reed, Jr., the former head of the Christian Coalition, who at the time of McAteer's death in 2004 was working in the successful re-election campaign of U.S. President George W. Bush, who had defeated McAteer's former rival, Al Gore, in a close, contested match in 2000.[2]

McAteer's break with the Republicans came because the party delivered little of the conservative Christian agenda but instead catered to the party's moderate wing. “We were dropped like a hot potato once they got out of these Christians what they wanted,” McAteer said of the GOP.[5]


On McAteer's death of cancer in East Memphis at the age of seventy-eight, independent conservative journalist Joseph Farah said that he had never "met a more fervent and zealous friend of Israel than Ed McAteer – and that includes all of my Jewish acquaintances."[6] Farah said that McAteer should have been appointed United States Ambassador to Israel in 1989 or again in 2001, but he was snubbed by both Presidents Bush.[6] In 2001, McAteer was featured as "the godfather of the Christian right" in the segment "Zion's Christian Soldiers" of 60 Minutes, the CBS news magazine. At the time, conservatives were pushing without success for the second President Bush to name McAteer as the U.S. ambassador to Israel.[1] Thougn neither Bush appointed McAteer as an ambassador, George W. Bush named McAteer's former election rival, Victor Ashe, as United States Amabasador to Poland.

Andy Groveman, president of the Memphis Jewish Federation, described McAteer as "a close friend to the Memphis Jewish community, and his love and loyalty for the state of Israel is unequaled.” Each year, McAteer organized the “International Christian Prayer Breakfast in Honor of Israel,” held in Memphis. Featured speakers over the years included such conservative figures as Roy Moore, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court[1] and a U.S. Senate candidate in the special election in Alabama in 2017. 

Richard Land, then president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said of McAtter in a statement to The Baptist Press:

Ed McAteer probably did as much as anyone to awaken the conscience of evangelical Christians and other people of faith to their obligation and responsibility to be the 'salt' and 'light' in society that Jesus commanded us to be. Ed had a tremendous vision for an informed and engaged Christian community in the life of our nation as well as Christians’ responsibility to the state of Israel, His boundless enthusiasm was infectious and energizing. In more than four decades of ministry, I have known no one more committed to our Savior.”[1]

Jerry Falwell, three years before his own death, was quoted by the Memphis Commercial-Appeal as having said, "Ed, more than anyone else, is responsible for the emergence of the Religious Right in America. ... He encouraged me to use my pulpit to speak out on moral and social issues, and I loved and revered him.”[1]

At McAteer's funeral, former Independent presidential candidate Howard Phillips, another organizer of the Moral Majority said, "A giant has fallen. Ed was an example of what a Christian ought to be. He was a man who was unblemished in his personal life ... a man who showed character and compassion to others.”[7]

McAteer's pastor, Adrian Rogers of the large Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova in suburban Memphis, said of his friend: <background> Ed McAteer was one of the most remarkable men that I have ever met. A man is known by what he loves. Ed McAteer loved his Lord, loved his wife and family, loved his nation and loved the nation of Israel. His enthusiasm, zeal and convictions were contagious. We are going to miss him, but his influence will go on and on until it touches the shore of eternity.”[6]

McAteer is interred at Robertson Cemetery in Memphis.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Art Toalston (October 7, 2004). Ed McAteer, pioneer for faith in public policy, dies at 78. Baptist Press News. Retrieved on May 26, 2016.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Margalit Fox (October 10, 2004). Edward E. McAteer, 78; Empowered Christian Right. The New York Times. Retrieved on May 26, 2016.
  3. Ed McAteer: Christian Conservative: Genial activist had friendships across social and political lines. Memphis Flyer (October 6, 2004). Retrieved on May 27, 2016.
  4. TN U.S. Senate. ourcampaigns.com. Retrieved on May 26, 2016.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Alex Johnson (October 27, 2004). Staying on the right side of a political movement: Conservative Christians - and their ideas - threaded throughout Bush administration. NBC News. Retrieved on May 26, 2016.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 My Friend, Ed McAteer. WND (October 12, 2004). Retrieved on May 26, 2016.
  7. 'A giant has fallen,' friend says at Ed McAteer funeral. Baptist Press News (October 11, 2004). Retrieved on May 26, 2016.