Few Mourn Tony Alamo Group’s Fall

Tulsa World
February 18, 1991


Few Mourn Tony Alamo Group’s Fall

DYER, Ark. – Resident John Chitwood said he thinks few in this town will be sad to see the Tony and Susan Alamo Foundation leave.

“They wouldn’t even talk to us. They looked down on us,” he said of the group that calls itself a Christian foundation and is known for distributing anti-Catholic pamphlets.

“Nobody really knew anything about them,” Chitwood said.

The foundation’s 250-acre compound on Georgia Ridge, which overlooks Dyer, and a cluster of buildings in town have been seized by the U.S. marshal’s office in nearby Fort Smith, Ark.

The seizure and planned sale of the property is to pay a $1.8 million court judgment against Tony Alamo in favor of six former foundation members for alienating the affections of two of the members’ wives.

One of the former members also alleged Alamo brainwashed the man’s wife and abused his son.

Alamo is a federal fugitive wanted by the FBI for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

In the seizures, which began Wednesday, deputy marshals confiscated 1,000 rhinestone-studded denim jackets hidden in the woods and equipment used to manufacture them by foundation members.

Chief Deputy Marshal Mike Blevins said the jackets apparently are the foundation’s chief money-making venture. He said he has heard some of the jackets sell for up to $1,800 apiece at stores such as ones on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, Calif.

He expects the sale of the the seized property to draw a crowd.

People in the Fort Smith area already have begun to ask, “When can I buy my Tony Alamo jacket?” he said.

At the compound, a crossbar prevents visitors from entering a private road unless a guard raises the bar. Guard dogs are chained nearby.
The only building visible from the road is a large beige brick dormitory.

Hidden behind the trees, Blevins said, are houses, another dormitory, a cafeteria, a school and the mansion Alamo once lived in – complete with a heart-shaped swimming pool. There also is an Olympic-sized pool on the grounds.

Blevins said more than 100 foundation members were on the property when it was seized. By Sunday, officials said, the compound was vacant.

The members would not allow a reporter to enter the grounds Friday but offered some of their pamphlets.

A foundation member who would not give his name also discussed Satan, the end of the world and the evils he said mark the Catholic church.

Other members gathered in groups and stared. Some petted the guard dogs.

Their clothes – jeans, down jackets and flannel shirts – are a far cry from the studded denim jackets seized by deputies or the Elvis Presley-type costume Alamo wears on the cover of a foundation pamphlet.

The members did not bother lawmen while they were seizing property Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, but Blevins said, “They obviously didn’t agree with our being out there.”

The cluster of buildings in town includes the foundation’s Holiness Tabernacle Church, some apartments and a house.

One building is in shambles after the foundation’s printing press – used to produce their pamphlets – was removed to the compound.

The cluster of buildings is on the opposite side of the street of a grocery store. Chitwood, who was visiting with friends at the store, said foundation members will only walk on their side of the street and will not walk on the grocery store side.

Deputy marshals also seized the mausoleum of Mrs. Alamo, who died of cancer in 1982 at age 56.

Crawford County officials say officers making rounds Saturday evening at the compound discovered the headstone was broken and the tomb was empty.

The foundation once operated a restaurant in nearby Alma, Ark. Chitwood said the rumor he has heard is that Mrs. Alamo’s body was kept in the restaurant’s cooler until it was placed in the mausoleum.

In: 1990-1999

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