Billy Graham Center

Interview with Louis E. Knowlton - Collection 247

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Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biography of Louis E. Knowlton

An Essay on the Contents of the Collection (Scope and Content)

Audio Tapes in This Collection (Location Records)

Brief Description.
Three taped interviews with Knowlton in which he discusses his career in evangelistic work and radio technology in Brazil for the Brazilian Evangelistic Association, Inc. Includes information on use of radio for evangelism at Houghton College, Houghton, NY; WMBI of Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, IL; street meetings for the Brazilian Baptist Church; radio station PRA7 of Sao Paulo, Brazil; Christian films; church-state relations; Brazilian television; missions finance and administration. Interviews were recorded on 3/16/83, 3/23/83 and 3/30/83.

Collection 247 [March 24, 2000]
Knowlton, Louis E.; 1932-
Interviews: 1983

5 Audio Tapes


There are no restrictions on this collection.


Louis E. Knowlton was born in Holland, Michigan, November 9, 1932. The Knowlton family included three boys and a girl, and was supported by their father's work on a fruit farm and their mother's teaching. The Knowltons were members of the Wesleyan Methodist church. Financial considerations prompted a move to the college town of Houghton, New York, where the family relocated in 1944 when Mrs. Knowlton accepted a teaching position there near a farm which the Knowltons rented. Mr. Knowlton worked as a maintenance person for Houghton College, and Louis Knowlton attended Houghton Academy.

During high school years, Louis became involved with radio work as an extra-curricular activity, an interest which eventually became his career focus within the mission field. Knowlton graduated from Houghton Academy in 1950 and entered Houghton College with a New York State scholarship. In 1952 an all-night prayer service resulted in his rededication to the Christian faith. This decision influenced other family members. His father became a role model for Louis by taking short term mission assignments, using his carpentry skills on the mission field. In 1953, Louis made the decision to become a missionary himself after working with a student who had been to Haiti.

Knowlton met his future wife, Mary F. Miller, while studying at Houghton, and they were married during his period of service as a Chaplain's assistant in the Army. After discharge, he enrolled in an electronics training program sponsored by Radio Corporation of America. In 1959 Knowlton accepted a job in Chicago where he worked at WMBI, the radio station affiliated with Moody Bible Institute. There he spent two years as an engineer and three as a producer. His purpose was to gain expertize to use on the mission field.

Representatives from World Gospel Crusades, which had purchased a radio station in Brazil, visited Moody in 1964 and Knowlton accepted a position as one of the staff members. At this time, the Knowltons had one son, and were prepared to begin the process of transferring to Brazil. Management changes in WGC resulted in that organization's decision to buy the Brazilian station. The Knowltons were released from their commitment and Knowlton remained at WMBI. Soon other arrangements were made to purchase the station (PRA7), and the Knowltons prepared to leave the U.S. to work with a Brazilian pastor, Walter Kisall, who was involved in radio. The U.S.-based organization set up to support the station became over-extended and went into bankruptcy soon after its inception. The Knowltons were already relocated in Brazil, had raised their support, and were in language school. For the next three years, the Knowltons lived with diminished financial resources, though they continued to stay in Sao Paolo. Walter Kisall, who was in the U.S. at the time of the bankruptcy, returned to Brazil and with his American son-in-law, Jack Moore, and Knowlton began an evangelistic team working for the Brazilian Baptist Church, Kisall's denomination. The need to provide a U.S.-based organization resulted in the formation of the Brazilian Evangelistic Association, incorporated in Ohio, which consisted of those individuals and groups who were sponsoring the Knowltons and Jack Moore.

Knowlton continued to work with technology in the sound truck of the evangelistic team and designed it to function with a smaller staff, freeing him to begin a small recording studio in Sao Paulo. The studio began a ministry in 1968, building to a sixteen-track music studio in 1983. At that time the Knowltons were living in Wheaton, Illinois, while Knowlton studied for a master's degree at Wheaton College. The Knowltons were planning to return to Brazil.

Scope and Content

Louis E. Knowlton was interviewed by Robert Shuster on March 16, l983, at the Billy Graham Center (T1, T2). The date span of the content of the interviews is from the early 1940s through the mid-1950s. Two further interviews of Knowlton were made by Robert Shuster on March 23 (T3, T4) and again on March 30 (T5) at the Graham Center. Information on these tapes covers the years 1967 through 1982 and relates to Knowlton's work in Brazil.

Time elapsed in minutes and seconds is recorded to the left of the topics discussed in the interview. This index is keyed to the cassette copy of the original reel-to-reel tape.

T1 - side 1
00:00 Family background
00:53 Family religious affiliations
01:31 Impact of the Wesleyan Methodist Church on parents
02:25 Clyde Meredith, pastor
02:49 Early church experiences as a youth; sporadic efforts to deepen Christian faith
04:35 Arminian philosophy of Wesleyans
04:57 Focus on fear in preaching; emphasis on life and work
06:02 Formality of home worship habits
06:30 Sophomore year at college; mass revival at Houghton, 1952
07:31 Knowlton's conversion and effect on his father
08:26 Effects on each family member; interaction of Houghton College and town
09:10 Description of revival at Houghton; unexpected results of failed evangelistic meetings
10:41 Knowlton's midnight conversion during spontaneous all-night prayer service
11:16 Wheaton's revival at the same time, 1952
11:54 Impact of Knowlton's conversion on family
12:42 God's leading to technical missionary service and radio; early involvement in high school and at Houghton in radio
14:06 Decision to make a career in broadcasting
14:29 Decision to work with Haitian radio station, 1953
15:02 Activities with radio staff at Houghton
15:33 Family's choice of Houghton from ad in SUNDAY SCHOOL TIMES
18:40 Mother's teaching contract, 1944
19:18 Violin lessons at Houghton and music major
20:15 Depression finances
20:28 Extra-curricular activities in music and radio
21:50 Benefits of summer music tours for future career
22:27 Tour experiences benefit later deputation experiences
23:58 Quality of education at Houghton; graduation, 1954; Korean War
26:10 Influence of John Andrews, violin teacher, and Charles Finney, organist
27:59 Limitations of licensing requirements and its effects on music education curriculum
29:38 Influence of Claude Reese on Knowlton's spiritual growth; Reese's influence in the town as a spiritual leader
33:59 Student reaction to chapel requirements at Houghton; Knowlton's response
35:24 Denominational background of Houghton students; missions emphasis
37:11 Geographical isolation as limitation to outreach efforts; Sunday School teachers and the music program
40:27 Full schedule of the music major
42:09 World War II veterans at Houghton; "Vetville" housing; dating customs
46:09 Engagement in senior year to orchestra violinist
47:02 Wife's family
48:56 Assessment of training as it related to the mission field
50:20 Survey of jobs in eletronics, evangelism, recording studios; cross-cultural studies at Wheaton; future possibilities
54:44 Variety of specialties among his missionary friends
55:40 Minimal impact of national events at Houghton because of isolation and lack of TV during his years there; lack of student involvement in national issues
59:06 Billy Graham's Crusade in Syracuse, 1953, and speech for commencement in 1950; campus reaction to both
60:02 End of tape

T1 - side 2
00:00 Recapitulation of end of side 1
04:05 Impressions of Graham as speaker at beginning of his career
05:02 Small role of Pentacostals at Houghton
06:01 Marriage during Army service
07:52 The draft during the Korean War
09:30 Work as Chaplain's assistant; male octet and use of music by the Army
10:07 Duties of Chaplain and assistant
13:47 Conflicts of interest in Chaplain's position; difficulties of ministry
15:24 End of tape

T2 - side 1
00:00 Father's missionary experiences doing construction work in Haiti
01:04 Construction of Puerto Rican churches; hospital in Sierra Leone
02:23 Family adjustment to missionary service; problems of youngest sister
03:17 Older brother's involvement in mission after retirement
04:07 Excellence of RCA Institute for electronics training; friends' influence
05:45 Hopes to go into missionary broadcasting; lack of response from Sudan Interior Mission and ELWA
06:26 RCA expenses and curriculum
07:39 WMBI connection and decision to work there; move to Chicago
09:09 Audio systems position; FCC license requirement
11:06 Facets of position, 1959; recording work
12:15 Charles Christensen and Joyce Blackburn and their influence
13:32 WMBI programming
15:00 Personal sampling of station impact and audience; staff size
16:28 Staff and shifts; new stations
17:42 Personnel problems with program manager
19:14 Effect of new stations on Chicago base
21:23 Programs at WMBI: Songsters, Stories of Great Christians
23:01 Directing duties; advice and goals
24:33 Components of a good radio program; difficulties of series
25:50 Film versus radio script-writing
27:25 Time involved to prepare a program, revisions, directors's role
31:02 Steps in developing programs; final cuts, recording; time involved
32:36 Contacts with Moody Bible Institute; Don Wrytzen, John Innes
34:00 Reason for WMBI; missions and missionaries; lack of contact with graduates in their careers
35:47 Attractions of WMBI for students
36:49 Pioneering use of radio at Moody Bible Institute; Knowlton's drive for new equipment; satellite hook-up in the 1980s
40:37 Innovative programs of interviews, drug abuse, Sunday night sing (begun 1954)
42:55 Decision-making and management structure
45:31 World Gospel Crusade contacts and decision to join
47:30 Certainty about decision as answer to prayer for direction
49:00 Size of Knowlton family; deputation begun
49:58 New organization formed to take over PRA7 (radio station), Brazil
51:22 Deputation work; alliance with Walter Kisall in Brazil
52:05 Language school in Brazil; bankruptcy of U.S.-based organization; Knowltons' financial situation
53:25 Methods in deputation tours; sources of support
54:05 Personal appeal of missionary as primary factor in support
55:21 Economic lessons gained through work at WMBI
57:20 Three-year period of financial uncertainty; losses and reactions
58:54 Change in name for PRA as factor in failure
60:00 End of tape

T2 - side 2
00:00 Kisalls' house rented; problems in communication because of language barrier (short break in tape)
01:21 Study of new language; humility, patience required
03:02 Complexity and differences of Portuguese language; continuing sense of being foreign even after years of language study
04:44 Idiomatic usage and life style of Brazilians; "God made time, Devil made clock."
07:27 End of tape

T3 - side 1
00:00 Brazilian Evangelistic Association incorporation in Dayton, OH; Walter Kisall, American son-in-law, and Knowlton
01:36 Staff, structure, support and policies of new mission
05:15 Types of supporters
06:40 Personal contacts as major sources of financial support
07:54 Jurisdiction of U.S. board; furlough terms
10:03 Cultural differences; decisions to remain; church home since 1973 and conditions of life in that community
13:40 Reasons for consideration of remaining in U.S.
15:36 Satisfactions of Brazilian work and life
17:24 Types of activity and content in evangelistic campaigns over two-year period
18:09 Responses
18:35 Language training, content and method (Frank Laubach)
22:17 Contrast between English and Portuguese as means of communication; greater emotional expressiveness of Brazilians
25:04 Other language groups; immigrants in wife's MK school
26:04 Walter Kishall, Jerry Swanson, Knowlton and People's Radio Station team; origins
29:40 Reasons for decision to work in Brazil
31:05 Walter Kishall; use of Pocket Testament League;s truck and techniques and specially-designed truck, 1968
34:43 Agreement with Brazilian Baptist Convention to work together at the invitation of Baptist churches
37:09 Cooperation with other Baptist groups
38:12 Description of street meetings and content
40:39 Use of films; types of films; effective conversion story
44:09 Description of economic classes and religious groups
45:25 Types of converts in Brazil, economic and ethnic groups
45:42 Evangelism in smaller cities
46:16 Follow-up programs run by local churches; statistics and need for effective follow-up
50:25 Shallow conversions from emotional response; good results in spite of problems
51:33 Use of music; American gospel music and contemporary ethnic music
52:42 Lack of suitable music until recently
54:23 Training in musical evangelism under Jim Kemp (Overseas Crusades)
56:26 Differences and types of music used; oral Christian folk songs
58:32 Differences in content; proclamation, exhortation, less exposition
59:37 Invitations
59:49 End of tape

T3 - side 2
00:00 Recapitulation of side 1
03:33 Number of invitations to hold street meetings; need for more teams
05:18 Opportunities and challenges in Brazil; working with Brazilian evangelists
06:11 Training for replacement in technical jobs; turntable
08:54 Description of present recording services to churches, organizations and missions
13:02 End of tape

T4 - side 1
00:00 Contents of film library; projector sales; improvement of circulation of films through library and branches
02:04 Film-printing
02:25 Market for films; hopes for larger library
07:25 Lack of production of Christian films
08:34 Poor sales of Brazilian films
09:09 Success of one Brazilian mission film; harnessing nationalism for better success
10:30 Necessity to understand cultural context of symbols; lack of communication through affluent American settings in films; success of American westerns
13:34 Lack of TV facilities in Brazil; exorbitant rates; networks and lack of Christian stations
16:45 Obstacles to development
17:40 Other religious denominations
18:32 Brazilian radio, commercial and Christian
19:24 Radio audiences, rural and urban
20:59 Lack of money as major problem for development
21:23 Brazilian Association of Evangelical Radio Stations; difficulties hindering expansion
24:20 Unofficial status of American radio station; seen as small business without need of license
26:38 Need for maturation of Brazilian church; methods of transfering control, begun about 1969
31:07 End of tape

T5 - side 1
00:00 Introduction
00:33 Worship in Brazilian churches
01:33 Evangelistic preaching
02:02 Church activities; denominational differences, Baptist, Pentacostal
03:40 Church conferences
04:21 Church-sponsored medical clinic
05:07 Sewing and adult literacy church classes
05:50 Evangelical and Catholic social action procedures and organization
07:44 Goals of Basic Communities (Catholic)
09:00 Lay administration in Basic Communities; lay missionaries
10:37 Pentecostal growth and appeal to the poor
12:41 Contrast of appeal of main-stream churches and strength of tradition
14:10 Pentecostal relations with other groups; evangelistic campaigns and radio broadcasts; lack of ministerial groups
16:35 Radio of Protestant churches in Brazil
18:34 Conservative-liberal orientation of Protestant churches
19:32 Reasons for preponderance of conservative belief
20:38 Role of seminaries in shaping Brazilian pastors' beliefs
21:46 Presbyterian seminary's shift to conservatism, 1970
22:39 Ecumenical movement in Brazil; reversals of nominal Catholicism in recent years
25:21 Influences of Vatican II in Brazil
27:15 The statue of Our Lady of the Appearing, official patron saint of Brazil
30:17 Catholicism and Protestantism in census figures; right-wing Catholic groups
33:13 Divorce laws in Brazil; Catholic opposition
34:07 Methods of Protestant political protest and election of candidates
35:52 Religious freedoms in Brazil; evangelical congressmen
36:57 Church-state relations; Protestant relations; social welfare programs
38:13 Catholic liberation theology; conflicts with government
39:10 Squatter groups of priests on property of large corporation; taxation, labor unions, land-holding in confrontation
41:00 Tenets of liberation theology in Brazil; emphasis of political freedoms above spiritual
42:08 Labor union problems in Sao Paolo and similarity to Poland
42:47 Reasons for Pentecostals lack of confrontation to government
43:38 Economic levels of members of traditional Protestant churches
43:51 End of tape

T5 - side 2
00:00 Recapitulation of conclusion of side 1; labor unions in Sao Paolo
01:37 Diversity of economic levels of Protestants
03:00 Brazilian ethnic groups
04:31 Lack of racism, diversity of immigrants and absorption into Brazilian society
05:49 Leo Janz and brothers
06:52 Japanese immigrants; small ethnic colonies
07:24 Economic level of Brazilian Indians; virtual obliteration of the Indians, 1500-1600s
09:28 Relationships of government with foreign missionaries; numbers in Brazil; Brazilian leadership of churches
11:15 Helping role of missionaries; Catholic dependency on foreign priests
12:24 Lack of government regulations in regard to clergy; church development
13:58 Non-Christian Brazilian religions; spiritism and its practices
16:33 Healing in spiritism; incidents of wrist joint and foot injury
18:30 Emotional results of involvement in spiritism
19:15 Reaching spiritists for the gospel; Carlos Roberto; exorcism and violent reactions
21:57 Risks in contacts with spiritism
22:49 Carlos Roberto and Brazilian naming system
24:00 Proportion of Brazilians involved with spiritism
25:02 Quasi-religious focus of Japanese cult, "Seichonoie"
26:28 Other cults
27:20 Horoscopes as major influence
28:15 Brazilian attitudes to U.S.; admiration and resentment
30:10 Lack of conflict on mission work; similar heritage as principal reason
31:44 Furlough visits to U.S.; American ignorance of Brazil; Brazilian economy and development
33:59 Prominence of Sunday evening church service and its tie to weekly family dinner celebration
37:13 Summary of evangelistic opportunities in Brazil
39:39 Graham crusade in Rio, 1974; cassettes made by Knowlton's mission; broad range of church cooperation before and after the crusade
41:53 Impact of the crusade; conclusions
43:00 End of tape


These tapes were given to the Center on March 16, March 23, and March 30, 1983.

Accession 83-23, 83-32, 83-35
April 3, 1985
Frances L. Brocker
J. Nasgowitz

Accession 83-23, 83-32, 83-35
Type of Material: Audio Tapes

The following items are located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE

T1 - Reel-to-reel tape, 3-3/4 speed, 71 minutes. Interview of Louis E. Knowlton by Robert Shuster, March 16, 1983. Discusses early life, education, Army service as chaplain's assistant. One side.

T2 - Reel-to-reel tape, 3-3/4 speed, 67 minutes. Interview of Louis E. Knowlton by Robert Shuster, March 16, 1983. Discusses decision to go into technological ministry, work at WMBI and in Brazil. Two sides.

T3 - Reel-to-reel tape, 3-3/4 speed, 73 minutes. Interview of Louis E. Knowlton by Robert Shuster, March 23, l983. Discusses work in Brazil as street evangelist and beginnings of music studio. One side.

T4 - Reel-to-reel tape, 3-3/4 speed, 30 minutes. Interview of Louis E. Knowlton by Robert Shuster, March 23, 1983. Discusses Christian films, Brazilian personnel and training. One side.

T5 - Reel-to-reel tape, 3-3/4 speed, 86 minutes. Interview of Louis E. Knowlton by Robert Shuster, March 30, 1983. Discusses the Brazilian churches, church-state relations, ethnic groups and cults. One side.

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Last Revised: 9/05/02
Expiration: indefinite