Who Was William Marrion Branham?
William Marrion Branham was part of the Charasmatic Movement in the United States during 1945 and lasting until his untimely death in 1965. Though some have named him the 'father' of this movement, it is evident that he rode the coat tails of some of the larger names in the movement such as A.A. Allen, F. F. Bosworth, Jack Coe, T. L. Osborne, and many others. Branham's influence likely started with F. F. Bosworth, who had been greatly influenced by Alexander Dowie in Zion Illinois. Bosworth's healing ministry had been in full effect for several years.
The Early Years
Branham was so ashamed of the first twenty-five years of his life that he never gave accurate accounts in any of his recorded testimonies of his life story. Born the son of a very young Charles and Ella Branham in a time when the law did not prevent immature children from marriage, Branham would be raised without solid moral foundation. At an early age, Branham witnessed unspeakable abominations by married and unmarried men and women around his father's whiskey stills and inside the house.
These wild orgies would scar the mind of a young William Branham. He would begin suffering hysteria, though only diagnosed by his family physician at the time. These memories would take a toll on Branham, with severe depression and other mental conditions affecting him every seven years for the rest of his life.
Branham's family had moved to a town called New Albany, only a few miles from "Little Vegas" which would later become the city of the headquarters of the denomination started in his name. In "Little Vegas," Branham admittedly would run horse races and boxing rings. Jeffersonville, IN received the nickname of "Little Vegas" due to the abundance of gambling and quickie marriages and divorces. Well-known mafia members such as Al Capone and Dillinger would frequent the gambling attraction, where greyhound racing and casinos dwarfed the distillery business across the Ohio river in Louisville, KY that were very limited due to prohibition. Elliot Ness is known to have visited Jeffersonville frequently in an attempt to track down federally known offenders.
When prohibition ended in 1933, much of the underground business that made big names in the mafia had been eliminated. The population of residents and visiters in Jeffersonville began to quickly decline. Unemployment had reached 25% in the US, and Branham turned to religion to provide for his family. In his brand-new 1933 Ford, Branham would no longer be seen running gambling events. Instead, the brand-new Ford would be seen outside of a small Baptist church that he had began building.
First Attempt At Evangelism
Branham produced a religious tract entitled "I Was Not Disobedient To The Heavenly Vision" which referred to a great healing revival that started in 1945. In this religious tract, Branham describes a vision that he considered to be a commission by God to heal the sick. Though the original commission would later change, the healings he described in the tract would be the cornerstone to his ministry.
Second Attempt at Evangelism
Branham would later meet Gordon Lindsay, who would give a young Branham tips and pointers that would start his ministry in full force. Purchasing a very expensive and technologically advanced tent, Branham would hold a revival at Vandalia, IL in June 1947. A microphone and loudspeaker system would be setup to blast his revival message throughout the entire city, and Chicago Tribune reporters would be called to cover the event as a nattily-dressed Branham hosted a well-funded revival.
Branham and Lindsay would start the "Voice of Healing" magazine as marketing material for Branham's business, as well as a series of tracts that would be sold for additional profit such as "How To Keep Your Healing." The new version of the commission included angels, whirlwinds in trees, and bushes on fire that did not burn, and the Associated Press would publish the first news article featuring William Branham.
With Lindsay and the new marketing technique, Branham was immediately a success. Word of his healing campaign spread almost as quickly as the faith healer Branham had met only a month before, Avak Hagopian the Armenian.
Decline in the Following
Large crowds followed William Branham during the first few years of his newly improved marketing version of his commission. Crowds peaked as Branham combined his ministry with other well-known faith healers, and sales of the Voice of Healing skyrocketed as almost fifty great faith healers took their ministry around the world. By 1951, Branham and Lindsay were marketing religious tracts entitled "I Was Not Disobedient To The Heavenly Vision" for other great faith healers such as Paul Cain.
This following would begin to decline and would never return to the worldwide following it had in 1951. Branham's techniques used for healing were not uncommon, and the large crowds became familiar with "vibrations of the hand," "shortness of one leg," and "magically guessing the information written in prayer cards." As the crowds declined, the money also declined, and eventually Lindsay left William Branham as his campaign manager.
Branham knew that if he were to continue revenues in his ministry, a new marketing technique would be necessary. In 1955, Branham would reuse a story told by William Sowders to claim a voice from the heavens commissioned him in the Ohio River. This new story had some effect, but was not significant. Branham also described having three visions in 1932 about women's role in politics, Communism, and the shape of cars. This story seemed to be a hit, so Branham refined and polished the three visions of 1932. It was not until a year later, in 1956, that the new marketing scheme would bring in the crowds. In April of 1956, Branham started claiming to have seven spiritual visions from God, prophesying seven world events that had already happened. These included the three visions of 1932, but added a few others. Not having the tools to research, Branham did not fully get accurate accounts of what happened in these events, but the people would not notice his mistakes as he continued to refine them over the years.
Prophecy of Doom
In 1960, Branham started including a year to one of the seven prophecies of 1933. He added a prediction that the world would end in 1977, using the power of fear to hold the declining followers. This teaching would resound through not only his following, but other evangelists ministries as well. It was a common belief that when the Bible was published in all languages in 1977, the Lord would return. Songs were written about the date 7-7-77 and entire cities were evacuated to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ. A very disturbed Jim Jones who got his start through William Branham's joint campaign at the Cadle Tabernacle in Indianapolis, IN would take his entire following to South America to their deaths only a year later in 1978.
While travelling with his wife and daughter, William Branham began fighting with his wife about revealing everything to the people. The platform he had placed himself upon was not one that he could easily walk away from, and the only exit was to finally tell the truth to all. During this argument, Branham struck a vehicle and was left dying in the hospital.
The Legacy Continues
Knowing that all checks written to "William Branham" could easily be cashed by William (Paul) Branham, known as "Billy Paul," the legacy continued. William (Paul) Branham quickly established the "William Branham Evangelistic Association" in Tucson, AZ at an attorney's office. In a joint effort to keep the money coming in, Willard Collins of the Branham Tabernacle in Jeffersonville, Pearry Green of the Tucson Tabernacle, Eddie Byskal of the Cloverdale Bibleway in BC Canada, and others joined with William (Paul) Branham to keep William Marrion Branham's legacy alive and the revenue flowing into the organization.
After they built the business back up to a level of income that exceeded William Branham, William (Paul) Branham's brother Joseph decided to become active in the organization. Setting up a master organization called Voice of God Recordings and a non-operational organization with the same name "William Branham Evangelistic Association" in Jeffersonville, IN, all revenues could easily channel from the smaller organizations and into the headquarter of the denomination.
Various other sales and marketing techniques have been added, including an eCommerce section of the organization that sells children's books, toys, publications, and other media. Since there are far more revenue-producing businesses surrounding the William Branham ministry than can be accurately counted, it is unknown the total size and volume of production and sales.