Messner, Tammy Faye 1942–2007

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Messner, Tammy Faye 1942–2007

(Tamara Faye Bakker, Tammy Bakker, Tammy Faye Bakker, Tamara Faye LaValley, Tammy Faye LaValley)


See index for CA sketch: Born March 7, 1942, in International Falls, MN; died of cancer, July 20, 2007, near Kansas City, MO. Television evangelist, singer, motivational speaker, and author. Messner has been called one of the most ridiculed women in America, yet she seemed to transcend the gossip columns and tabloids with a steadfast religious faith, calm courage in the face of scandal, and simple belief in the basic goodness of mankind. Her celebrity emerged from her first marriage to the notorious television evangelist Jim Bakker (pronounced like "baker"). Married to him when she was still a teenager, Messner followed him through the bad times into the good and back again, weighed down with her trademark eye makeup, praying for the sore of heart, and pleading for financial donations. The Bakkers traveled around the United States as itinerant revivalists, he preaching and she singing, praying, and performing puppet shows for children. In 1965 they were invited by television evangelist Pat Robertson to host The 700 Club on his Christian Broadcasting Network. When this partnership failed in 1972, the Bakkers established The PTL Club on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, and when that relationship soured, they became independent broadcasters. The money poured in, and they used some of it to build the Christian theme park Heritage USA. Much of the rest of the donations went to support the Bakkers' opulent lifestyle, which eventually aroused the suspicion of the Federal Communications Commission. In 1986 Jim Bakker was accused of a sexual dalliance with a former church secretary and a payoff to the woman to conceal the affair. Eventually he was defrocked by the Pentecostal Assemblies of God and indicted for fraud and conspiracy. Bakker was sent to jail, the television ministry was terminated, and the couple's personal empire fell into bankruptcy, but somehow Messner managed to remain above the debris field. She was never charged with a crime and, though she was mercilessly ridiculed, she was also pitied—eventually earning a certain amount of respect for her endurance if nothing else. By then Messner had divorced, remarried, and launched her own career as a motivational writer and speaker. She recorded gospel and country music, released a series of "You Can Make It" motivational tapes, and promoted her own line of cosmetics and wigs. Messner made guest appearances on numerous television programs. As one of the few Christian fundamentalists to include homosexuals among the children of God, she even co-hosted a television support program for gay men. Messner fought a long and highly televised battle against cancer, beginning in 1996, and finally passed way, almost literally on the air, in July of 2007. She was the author of the memoirs I Gotta Be Me (1987), Tammy: Telling It My Way (1996), and I Will Survive … and You Will, Too! (2003).



Messner, Tammy Faye, and Cliff Dudley, I Gotta Be Me, New Leaf Press (Green Forest, AZ), 1987.

Messner, Tammy Faye, Tammy: Telling It My Way, 1996.

Messner, Tammy Faye, I Will Survive … and You Will, Too!, 2003.

St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2000.


Los Angeles Times, July 22, 2007, p. B11.

New York Times, July 23, 2007, p. A21.

Times (London, England), July 23, 2007, p. 49.


Tammy Faye Messner Home Page, (November 8, 2007).


Bailey, Fenton, and Randy Barbato, The Eyes of Tammy Faye (documentary film), released by Lions Gate Films, 2000.

Bailey, Fenton, and Randy Barbaro, executive producers, Tammy Faye: Death Defying (television special), broadcast by Women's Entertainment Network, 2005.

Self, Jeffery, Big Tent: The Tammy Faye Bakker Musical, produced in a staged concert reading in New York, NY, at New World Stages, 2007.