Much has been made of Herbert W. Armstrong’s early radio career. He and his followers have claimed that he was one of the first religious broadcasters, beginning his career in 1933. Since commercial radio broadcasting in the United States began in the early 1920’s, it seemed unlikely to me that he could be a pioneer in the field. Thanks to the Internet, it is easy to show that this claim of Armstrong’s, like many others, is a lie.
Rather than being a religious radio pioneer, Herbert W. Armstrong was a Johnny-come-lately to religious broadcasting. Regular religious broadcasting began in 1921, and by 1927 over 60 religious groups had licenses to operate radio stations. (For more information, visit “Short History of Christian Broadcasting,” a site maintained by WFAX, a Christian radio station located in Washington, D.C.)
Armstrong was a follower, not a leader. As he wrote in his Autobiography, “In September … the living Christ began opening doors for the MASS-proclaiming of His Gospel. It was then that someone brought to my attention the fact that the local radio station at Eugene, KORE, then the very smallest minimum-power of 100 watts, had a morning devotional program scheduled, but that they were having difficulty getting local ministers to conduct the program. It was free time, carried by the station as a public service….” (Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong, 1973 edition, p. 451-452.) The air-time was already available, and Armstrong took advantage of its availability. He did not brainstorm and come up with the novel idea of a religious broadcast.
Compared to many of the other things that he did, this seems to be a minor point. So why bring it up? I mention it because it is yet another example of the falsehood that surrounds his career. His personal history has become so embellished with legend that it is difficult to separate fact from fantasy. Armstrong himself promoted much of the legend. Although some people will never be convinced, we should do what we can to tear down the legend of Herbert W. Armstrong brick by brick. Perhaps this little tidbit about his radio career will be the last straw that frees some poor soul from the shackles of Church of Godism.