Stapleton, Ruth Carter (1929-1983)

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Stapleton, Ruth Carter (1929-1983)

Evangelist, healer, and sister of U.S. president Jimmy Carter. She was born August 7, 1929, in Plains, Georgia. After two years of the Georgia State College for Women, she married Robert Stapleton, a veterinarian, and they settled in North Carolina. She became the mother of four children.

Her career as a healer dates from her own recovery from periods of deep depression. She combined attendance at group therapy sessions with an interdenominational retreat at a North Carolina hotel and "experienced God as a God of love." Some three months later she attended a second retreat and came in contact with Pentecostalism. She received the baptism of the Holy Spirit in a Pentecostal meeting and experienced its definitive manifestation, speaking in tongues.

She subsequently developed her own kind of healing technique, which might be described as a spiritually-based psychotherapy. She combined prayer with a probing of the unhappy memories of the individuals who sought her help. She taught them to recreate painful past experiences in a "guided daydream" in which the figure of Jesus is introduced to neutralize emotional difficulties by love and forgiveness.

In her book The Gift of Inner Healing (1976), she describes her work over nine years with various Christian groups. She preached and prayed for Roman Catholics as well as Protestants at her spiritual workshops in over 70 American cities and abroad in Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, and Britain. She rejected the label of "faith healer," since she claimed God is the healer, but was also involved in more traditional healing of physical ailments by means of prayer.

In 1977, Stapleton hit the headlines when she was instrumental in bringing religious conviction to Larry C. Flynt, editor of the pornographic Hustler magazine. On February 8, 1977, Flynt was been found guilty of engaging in organized crime and pandering to obscenity. CBS News producer Joe Wershba introduced Flynt to Stapleton, and after a discussion on religion and sexual repression, Flynt claims a religious conversion was set in motion. According to his own account, Flynt discovered God at 40,000 feet while on a flight from Denver to Houston.

Subsequently, both Stapleton and Flynt appeared together on the Today program on November 23, 1977, when Flynt publicly acknowledged that God had entered his life and that henceforth his magazine would introduce a religious element. Hustler would be transformed into a religious magazine, and Flynt's multimillion-dollar empire would be turned into a nonprofit religious foundation. At a Pentecostal congregation in Houston, Flynt stated: "I owe every woman in America an apology." Flynt did not carry through, and Hustler remains a pornographic publication.

Stapleton was plunged into the spotlight by the election of her brother to the presidency in 1976. Through those years she wrote three more books and continued an active life of traveling and speaking. Then in 1983 she discovered that she had cancer, but refused standard medical treatment, turning instead to a macrobiotic diet, meditation, and reliance on God's healing power. She died September 26, 1983, at Fayetteville, North Carolina.


Stapleton, Ruth Carter. The Experience of Inner Healing. Waco, Tex.: Word Books, 1977.

. The Gift of Inner Healing. Waco, Tex.: Word Books, 1976.

. In His Footsteps. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979.