Don Wildmon was born in 1938 and as a young man was a United Methodist minister for 13 years. In 1977, troubled by the profanity and indecency he saw on television, started American Family Association in his kitchen in Tupelo, Mississippi. In 1991, he started American Family Radio (AFR), which now has between one and a half and two million listeners.
Most men would be proud to accomplish half as much, but AFA president and Don's son, Tim Wildmon, says it never went to his head. "Those were the visions that God gave him to start," Tim recalls, "and he was a servant of the Lord and he followed through with what the Lord gave him to do."
"All God asks of you is faithfulness." (Don Wildmon)
AFA executive vice president Ed Vitagliano shared these thoughts with AFN:
"Bro. Don Wildmon was an extraordinary man and an extraordinary figure in American culture. Because of the humility of Brother Don, sometimes it is hard to gauge the impact he had – but his vision for a Christian community that was active in politics and culture was part of a movement we believe of the Holy Spirit in this country."
"It was not just Brother Don; it was Jerry Falwell and Dr. James Dobson and Phyllis Schlafly and others who understood the direction that this country was taking and knew that the Church had to speak up – that the Church could not censor itself and be paralyzed by a culture that wanted to intimidate the Christian community and make them silent.
"Brother Don's vision [for AFA and AFR] was huge in our culture, extremely influential and because he and his wife, Lynda, raised strong children, strong in the Christian faith, who now have grandchildren who continue that legacy, AFA and AFR continue the vision and the passion of Brother Don to see this nation return to a place of faithfulness to God that we might be a nation once again whose God is the Lord."
"It is sad for those of us here at AFA and AFR. This really is like a family. This is a hard moment, a difficult moment for us, very sad, but we also believe in the resurrection and the power of God to take away – through the resurrection of Christ – the sting of death. We know Bro. Don is in Heaven with his Lord who he served faithfully and with others in his family, others that he knows from that movement to get people involved in culture. We are happy for Brother Don and we do covet the prayers of our faithful listeners and supporters for the Wildmon family and for this ministry. We continue to ask them to pray for our nation and pray that God might send a revival and an awakening that will restore the biblical foundations of this country."
Pastor Bert Harper of "Exploring the Word" on AFR was a close friend for years and former chairman of the ministry's board of directors. He was impressed with Brother Don's vision.
"Brother Don Wildmon was a visionary," says Harper. "He could see down the road ten years ahead of time. I found that true in the ministry of AFA, but also found it true and helpful for families."
Dr. Alex McFarland co-hosts "Exploring the Word" with Harper. Wildmon, he says, was "an amazingly influential, wonderfully faithful" man of God.
"In the late 1970s, as our nation was beginning a moral and spiritual decline, God raised up some leaders whowould ultimately change the world and our nation for the good. Certainly, one of the most prominent was the late Dr. Don Wildmon," says McFarland. "In founding the American Family Association, the American Family Radio network and the associated ministries, he set in motion an influence for the gospel that only God could measure. What a legacy he leaves, what an example for us all -- and what an amazing, faithful servant at a key point in our nation's history."
Ted Beahr of Movieguide fought alongside the elder Wildmon for decency on TV and in the movies. "Don had an ability to not just target the exact right problem but he also had ability to galvanize people," says Beahr.
One of the other pro-family pioneers Brother Don worked with was Focus on the Family founder Dr. James Dobson, who now hosts "Family Talk." He says there was an immediate connection between the two and says his legacy will be his courage.
"I think it would be his fearlessness in taking on big corporations and the powerful executives who scared everybody else," Dobson tells AFN.
Dr. Robert Jeffress is senior pastor of First Baptist Dallas. His daily radio program airs on AFR.
"Don Wildmon was a true pioneer in encouraging pastors like myself and thousands of others to speak out on the great moral issues of the day," says Jeffress. "He will be sorely missed by a country that needs him more than ever right now. We pray for the Wildmon family, and wish them every encouragement from Heaven that they will see Don again in Heaven, with all of the rewards he deserves."
Donald E. Wildmon was 85 years old. He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Lynda; two sons, Tim (wife Alison) and Mark (wife Virginia); two daughters, Donna Clement (husband Neal) and Angela; one sister, Louise Yancey (husband Mike); six grandchildren; and eleven great-grandchildren. Also sister-in-law Tamra Durham (husband Larry) and brother-in-law Kelly Bennett (wife Tessie).
Editor's Note: The American Family Association is the parent organization of the American Family News Network, which operates AFN.net.