Jim Bakker is an American televangelist who had previously served as a minister of Assemblies of God, which used to be the 9th largest Christian denomination in the USA. Along with his then-wife Tammy Faye Bakker, he hosted several TV shows in the 1960s and 1970s, such as ‘The 700 Club’ and ‘Praise the Lord Club’. Bakker is also known for building ‘Heritage USA,’ a Christian theme park. In addition, he is the author of several books such as ‘Time Has Come: How to Prepare Now for Epic Events Ahead’. The couple’s popularity declined after Jim Bakker was found to be having an affair with his church secretary, which also led to numerous other affairs being discovered. Years later, he was also found guilty of fraud and conspiracy. Bakker has been severely criticized by some of his fellow evangelists like Jerry Falwell and Jimmy Swaggart; the former described him as a liar, an embezzler, a sexual deviant as well as a cancer on the face of Christianity.
Jim Bakker began his career in 1966 when he began working with his wife at Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network. The couple helped the network grow with their successful shows, such as ‘The 700 Club’, ‘The PTL Show’ and ‘The Jim and Tammy Show’. The Bakkers also built Heritage USA in Fort Mill, South Carolina. It was the third most successful theme park in the country at that time. They also built a satellite system to distribute their network nationwide 24 hours a day.
Bakker is also a writer. The books authored by him include ‘I Was Wrong’, ‘Eight Keys to Success’ and ‘Prosperity and the Coming Apocalypse’.
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Fall from Grace
Jim Bakker fell from grace when it was revealed that he was having an affair with his secretary Jessica Hahn. According to Hahn, she was also raped by Bakker and Pastor John Wesley. She also alleged that they paid her nearly $300,000 for her silence. In May 1987, Bakker was dismissed as an Assemblies of God minister.
Later, Bakker was indicted in 1988 on eight counts of mail fraud, 15 counts of wire fraud, and one count of conspiracy. After a five-week trial in 1989, he was found guilty by a jury on all counts. Judge Daniel Potter sentenced him to 45 years in federal prison, and imposed a $500,000 fine. Later, his sentence was reduced to eight years.
After serving almost five years of his sentence, he received parole in July 1994. His son spearheaded a letter-writing campaign to the parole board advocating leniency. In December 1994, Bakker was eventually released from the Federal Bureau of Prisons custody. Jim Bakker has been criticized by other evangelists such as Jerry Falwell and Jimmy Swaggart.
Jim Bakker was born on 2nd January 1940 as James Orsen Bakker in Muskegon, Michigan, to Raleigh Bakker and Furnia Lynette Irwin. He studied at North Central University, where he met his future wife Tammy Fays LaValley. He used to work at a restaurant while she worked at a nearby boutique.
They got married on 1st April 1961. The couple became evangelists after they left college. Their first child was a daughter named Tammy Sue Bakker Chapman (born on 2nd March 1970). They had another child, a son named Jamie Charles Bakker, born in 1975. The couple divorced on March 13, 1992. Bakker married Lori Beth Graham in 1998. She is a former evangelist.