Billy Graham Center

Interview with Perry Clark Straw - Collection 396

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Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biography of Perry Clark Straw

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

Lists of Audio Tapes in This Collection (Location Record)

Brief Description.
Oral history interview with Straw, an executive of the Moody Radio Network. Topics covered include Straw's childhood in the northeastern United States, his parent's work in starting and administering Baptist youth camps, memories of Percy Crawford and Jack Wyrtzen, his education at South- eastern, his early work in radio, and his training at Moody Bible Institute.

Collection 396 [January 28, 1995]
Straw, Perry Clark, 1939-
Interview, 1988

Audio Tapes


There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.


Perry Clark Straw was born in Rensselaerville, New York to Baptist ministers George Mueller and Helen Straw. He was the third of four sons. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to a farm in Pennsylvania, where George Straw was pastor of a small congregation while operating the farm. Perry gave his life to the Lord at the age of six and rededicated himself to the Lord at the age of sixteen at a camp meeting near Charlottesville, New York. It was at this time that he first entertained the idea of doing Christian work full-time.

The Straw family moved back to New York in December of 1951, where George Straw spent the rest of his life as a pastor. During his teenage years, Perry bought a short-wave radio and began listening to missionary radio station HCJB from Ecuador. He felt called to enter missionary radio. He was accepted at Southeastern Bible College in Alabama, from which he graduated in 1957. While attending Southeastern, Straw worked at the very small WSFM Christian radio station of Birmingham as an intern.

Straw enrolled at Moody Bible Institute (MBI) in Chicago for further training in radio work, and entered there as a post-graduate student in August of 1961. He was expelled for failing a Spanish course from which he had actually withdrawn. A friend offered him a job at Beneficial Finance and Management, Inc., where he worked from 1962 to 1964. As soon as he arrived in Chicago, Straw became involved with the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle, largely because of the stories he had heard for years about the Tabernacle's previous ministry under Paul Rader.

In November of 1961, Straw left his position at Beneficial and was hired by Charles Christensen for the staff of radio station WMBI, at first part-time but very shortly afterwards full-time. In 1971, Straw became the administrator of the Broadcasting Services department for the Moody Radio Network. He was appointed director of Broadcast Services in 1988, which included overseeing the networks computer development.

Straw was married to Lorraine. They had two children: daughter Naomi, and son Perry.

Scope and Content

Perry Clark Straw was interviewed by Robert Shuster on June 23, 1988, in Mr.. Straw's office in Chicago. The events described in the interview cover the time period from ca. 1945 through 1988. The boldfaced entries are intended to highlight the topics covered in the interview. Time elapsed in minutes and seconds is recorded to the left of the topics discussed in the interview. The index is keyed to a cassette copy and not to the reel-to-reel original.

T1 - side 1
00:00 Beginning of tape
01:00 Introduction of interview on June 23, 1988
01:20 Family background, father was a Baptist minister, memories of being a "preacher's kid" (pk), father turned a dairy farm into a youth ministry camp called Camp Bethel
05:25 Perry's feelings about farm life as a boy, leaving farm for city as a boy was a tough change, memories of winters on farm, being a PK, effectiveness of his parents in their ministry, did not spend much time with his father
10:15 Comparison of camp ministry to "regular" ministry, rededicating his life to the Lord at the age of sixteen at a summer camp, further memories of youth camp, making his commitment to Christ at the age of six, father's many preaching illustrations from everyday farm life, attendance at the camp, sleeping in hay mounds, being lent out to farmers in New York for a week or so at a time during busy harvesting periods
20:15 Obtaining a short-wave radio from a mail-order store at the age of seven, finding HCJB on radio, decision to go to Bible school, finding out of acceptance to Southeastern Bible College and subsequently attending there in 1957, studying radio ministry there
27:45 Arriving in Chicago in August 1961 to attend Moody Bible Institute, visiting the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle, memories of his mother and her ordination, her commitment to teaching children, mother's bout with cancer and death, Perry's birth in the family living room
36:45 Father's ability to play handsaw, separateness of family because of age differences, decision to enter full-time Christian work at age 16, intention to be a missionary, and rededication to Christ, "practiced" being a missionary with his roommate Ramon Celis [?] by sleeping in hammocks, studying radio technology at MBI and work at radio station WMBI, choosing between radio and language courses, forced to leave Moody because of "bureaucratic nightmare"
45:00 End of side 1

T1 - side 2
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:06 Overlap from end of side 1
01:13 Finding a job at Beneficial Management Corporation for two years, learning how to deal with people, discovery of involvement of organized crime in the loan business, being hired by Chuck Christiansen at WMBI as a part-time tape editor in November 1964, becoming full-time a few months later, thoughts on the meaning of being a radio missionary
07:15 His naivete about radio work, WMBI's plan to cover the world with Christian programming, current distribution of programming by Moody, possibilities of satellite broadcasting, efforts of religious broadcasters to cooperate to use satellites
12:45 Going away to Southeastern Bible College was Straw's first time away from home, reactions of his parents to the separation, getting to know southern students, father's sorrow at the parting, hitch-hiking back home for Christmas
19:00 Father snubbed by the local pastors and the administration of the camp he founded because Perry did not go to a denominational school
21:15 End of side 2 of tape

T2 - side 1
00:00 Beginning of tape
01:15 Introduction
01:30 Memories of Percy Crawford's Pinebrook camp, Ruth Crawford's talent on the piano, memories Jack Wyrtzen's Word of Life camp, amount and quality of music at Camp of the Woods, reasons why music was so important to Straw
06:45 Comparing preaching styles of Percy Crawford and Jack Wyrtzen, comparison of the impact of Wyrtzen's and Crawford's ministries, differences in physical demeanors, Crawford's early television broadcasts
14:00 Studying habits at Southeastern Bible College, change in Straw's character after he rededicated his life to Christ at the age of 16, apprenticeship in radio under Rev. Jim Irwin at Birmingham, Alabama station WSFM, general format of programs, little reaction from listeners, station's failure to adhere to the FCC rules and regulations
22:45 WMBI's dedication to following FCC regulations in letter and spirit, comparison of educational styles at MBI and Southeastern, involvement with Chicago Gospel Tabernacle and Rev. Wally White, shock at the small size of the congregation, involvement with the Sunday school program
32:00 History of the Tabernacle's organ and platform, Straw's efforts to revitalize church, the Tabernacle's loss of various properties, fund established for needy MBI students when when Tabernacle dissolved, later homes of the Tabernacle until it was dissolved
41:00 Reminiscences about the Tabernacle's youth work, women's missionary group outings and meetings
43:45 End of side 1

T2 - side 2
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:08 Overlap from side 1
01:00 Speculation as to what led to the demise of the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle, Doug Fisher's period as pastor and the growth of the church, loss of the church's building, Tabernacle's property thrown out of the building
07:00 Lack of blatant sin or other apparent reason for failure of Chicago Gospel Tabernacle, incident with money for victims in Haiti, stories about Wally White
15:30 Rumored reason why Paul Rader left the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle, good work done in the last years of the Tabernacle, Fisher left church under amiable circumstances, final reflections on the Tabernacle
23:30 End of side 2

The materials in this collection were given to the Billy Graham Center by Perry Straw in June 1988.

Accession 88-74
January 28, 1995
Robert Shuster
K. Cox

Acc. 88-74
Type of Material: Audio Tapes
The items listed below are located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE:

T1 - Reel-to-reel, 7-1/2 speed, approximately 63 minutes. One side only. Interview with Perry Clark Straw, by Robert Shuster, June 23, 1988. Discussion of family, formative years, and education at Southeastern Bible College and Moody Bible Institute.

T2 - Reel-to-reel, 7-1/2 speed, approximately 66 minutes. One side only. Interview with Perry Clark Straw, by Robert Shuster, June 23, 1988. Discussion of Christian youth camps, Percy Crawford, Jack Wyrtzen, Moody Bible Institute, WMBI, and the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle's history.

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