Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Bivangelists and how one thing leads to another

So I'm reading the Bill Bryson book I mentioned a few posts ago, and he tells the story of Billy James Hargis who was a kooky evangelist in the 1950s. It catches my eye that Hargis got kicked out of Ozark Bible College, which is in my hometown of Joplin these days but may have been in Bentonville, Arkansas back then. It goes on to say that Hargis spent his later years in "the flower box City" Neosho, Missouri, a quaint little town that, to me, was always populated by people who were tweaked a little. That's all just exposition. The curious part is that Hargis self-destructed by getting caught having sex with his congregation - both sides of the aisle, as it were, sopranos and basses from the choir, if you catch my drift. Even turns out he was exposed when two of his students confess on their wedding night that they are not virgins, and discover they both got it on with the Rev. Hargis. A busy man indeed. All this is ancient history, but sure seems familiar, don't it Cletus? Reminds me of a fella named Ted Haggard. So I'm wondering, what is it about the preaching that gets the hormones in such an uproar? Haggard is seen in Alexandra Pelosi's new documentary on HBO "Friends of God" talking about how much sex he has, and how all these devout folks are just randy as rabbits all the time. And apparently they get so lathered up they're ready to get down to business with you whether you're an innie or an outie. I have coined a new term for these guys (oversexed preachers seem to be guys, oversexed teachers seem to be gals) and the term is bivangelists.


Trader Joe said...

It occurs to me that the profession of preacher might attract these nuts.

Bryce said...

This is part of the KOM League Flash Report, that you can find as a blog on the Internet by John Hall from Columbia, Mo., and formerly Carthage, Mo., and Joplin Juco. I helped him in research for his current book on Mickey Mantle. (KOM -- initials for the old Class A baseball league)

Hargis remembered in Neosho

Well John, we've had some mighty famous people here in Neosho and regretfully Billy James Hargis was one of them. He had a brush arbor
type of ministry :"Christian Crusades" outside of Neosho for awhile. Hargis was born in Texarkana Texas, Aug 3, 1925 and died from Alzheimer's
disease in a nursing home in Tulsa November 24, 2004.

Other notables, who were BORN in Neosho, include Thomas Hart Benton (painter/muralist) James Scott (ragtime composer) Don Clendenon
(first baseman major league) and Hugh Armstrong Robinson,(aviation pioneer - airport is named for him).

Other notables born in the Neosho area were George Washington Carver (inventor/botanist), (The little house on Young street where he was raised
by Ms Mariah Watkins still stands); John Q. Hammons (hotel magnate and philanthropist) H. Waldo Hatler (WWII hero and medal of honor recipient) and Herman Jaeger (who "saved" the French wine industry when disease destroyed their grape vineyards - he sent his own grape cuttings which were resistant to disease, they planted them and thereby the French vinyards were saved). As far as I know all are dead except for Mr. Hammons.

Will Rogers attended Scarritt College here, Mort Walker who created Beatte Bailey was stationed at Camp Crowder during WWII, as was
Dick Van Dyke, and also (sorry, can't remember his name) the cartoonist who invented "Hazel". I'm sure there were other prominent persons
but will leave that for a later letter. Sorry to have stretched this out. All I intended was to let you know of Hargis' demise. Betty Marty

Ed note:

Many of you will have no recollection of Rev. Hargis. He made his living by being an anti-Communist evangelist on
a sizable radio network strung throughout the Midwest back in the 50's and 60's

On the way to work recently I recalled another connection with Hargis and the people of whom I write. A member
of the Baxter Springs Whiz Kids at the time of Mickey Mantle's involvement with that team was Rex Heavin. Heavin
is the young man who sang at the funeral of Whiz Kid manager, Walter "Barney" Barnett, as Mantle sat in the
congregation weeping over the loss of his friend. Barnett lived to see Mantle make it to the "big show" but not
for very long.

At one time Rev. Hargis was in Baxter Springs and heard Rex Heavin sing. He pleaded with him to join his
evangelistic group as the lead singer. Heavin had other aspirations and fortunately he acted upon them. He
had an entire career as a minister in the Christian Church.

Late last week I had a call from Charles "Frog" Heavin. Frog was the starting pitcher in the first game the Baxter Springs Whiz Kids
played in the Southeast Kansas Ban Johnson league in 1949. He was the winning pitcher and Mantle was the hitting star. Heavin was
inquiring about obtaining copies of the Independence Yankee and Joplin Miner photos during Mantle's time with those clubs. He also was inquiring
about the availability of "Mickey Mantle Before the Glory." His request was quickly filled and the material should be in his hands by now.

It is coming upon one year since the Mantle book was released and the big reunion of former Mantle teammates from Baxter Springs,
Independence and Joplin was held. There are a few first edition copies of that book remaining. Who knows, it may be the
only edition of the book that will ever be printed. So, if you would like a copy either signed or unsigned, let me know.

Anonymous said...

Enjoying some of your recent columns, and being from Neosho, wanted to make one correction: our Congressional Medal of Honor winner was M. Waldo Hatler (not H. Waldo Hatler) but I have no idea what the M. stood for. In our day, he was not known for his wartime valor, but rather the public swimming pool he operated north of town, and for his junk store down on East Spring St.