This is an accurate transcript of the tape of the sixth part of the oral .history interview of John Von Casper "Jack" Wyrtzen (CN 446, T6) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words have been omitted, except for any names or non-English phrases which could not be understood by the transcribers. Foreign terms which are not commonly understood appear in italics. In very few cases words were too unclear to be distinguished. If the transcriber was not completely sure of having gotten what the speaker said, "[?]" was inserted after the word or phrase in question. If the speech was inaudible or indistinguishable, "[unclear]" was inserted. Grunts and verbal hesitations such as "ah" or "um" were usually omitted. The transcribers have not attempted to phonetically replicate English dialects but have instead entered the standard English word the speaker was expressing. Readers should remember that this is a transcript of spoken English, which follows a different rhythm and rule than written English.
Some portions of the interview that involving living persons have been removed from this transcript and from any copies made of the tape of this interview. The removals have been indicated in the text. This restriction will expire on December 31, 2030.
... Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence on the part of the speaker.
.... Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of an incomplete sentence.
( ) Words in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.
[ ] Words in brackets are comments by the transcriber.
This transcript was made by Robert Shuster and Ruth Estelle and was completed in November 2002.
Collection 446, T6. Interview of John Von Casper "Jack" Wyrtzen by Robert Shuster, October 5, 1991.
SHUSTER: How do you mean...how do you mean that suddenly?
WYRTZEN: Well, as a young Christian, I think we...
SHUSTER: Too much?
WYRTZEN: ...gave him too much of a notoriety.
SHUSTER: [pauses] What kind of preacher was he?
WYRTZEN: Oh! One of the greatest. Preached the stars down. He was another Chuck Templeton. Orator. Oh, magnificent. I think the closest thing to him now is Tony Evans.
WYRTZEN: He's another great preacher.
SHUSTER: Now weren't you and he going to have a preaching tour in Africa?
WYRTZEN: Yes we were, uh-huh. And I don't know what happened. He backed out at the last minute and we got Charlie Dawson, another black preacher.
SHUSTER: Who I've interviewed as well. We have....
WYRTZEN: You have....
SHUSTER: ...an interview with him [Collection 386] about his work with Afro...
SHUSTER: ...Afro-American Missionary Crusade.
WYRTZEN: Uh-huh. I wonder now as I look back (I'm sure that was of the Lord) if Tom could have taken what Charlie Dawson took.
SHUSTER: How do you mean that?
WYRTZEN: Well, for instance, when we got in among the tribal people, I know the missionaries were very concerned that they would want Charlie Dawson to sleep in their quarters, which left much to be desired. They wouldn't ask me as a white to do it, but they...and it was marvelous how the Lord took care of Charlie, that he didn't have to subject himself to that, which could have...you know, if he ate their food and slept in their place, you know, they were immune to a lot of the diseases and things. But Charlie was sure God's man. Oh boy, he and I became very, very close friends. He and I slept together, traveled together, and worked together. You know, he used to be a sparring partner to some of the big boxers.
SHUSTER: Uh-huh. Yeah, he talked about that in our interview. Let's talk about Rev. Dawson for a couple minutes. How would you characterize him? How would you describe...?
WYRTZEN: [laughs] A man's man. We got a flat tire way out in the middle of the jungles...on a great big Land Rover, and the mission had forgot to...or someone had taken the jack out. Charlie said, "Well, you guys get off the truck and I'll lift it and change the tire." And he got up and he lifted that big truck...held it up while we changed the tire. [pauses] And the missionaries didn't have a gun or anything with all those wild animals around. Whew! And Charlie did a...I guess he's still doing a great job in Camden [New Jersey] pastoring a church.
SHUSTER: Have you...did you hear him preach?
WYRTZEN: Oh, yeah.
SHUSTER: How would you...
WYRTZEN: I mean, out in the jungles and out in the Africa Inland Mission territory, we'd have four or five thousand people a night. And he'd preach for a half hour, an hour, and I'd preach for another hour...good preacher. Good all around, lovable guy.
SHUSTER: When you were talking to crowds in Africa and [unclear] and some of the other places you went...where people, perhaps, who had not the slightest Christian background, who would not recognize stories in the Bible, how would you start? How would you present the Gospel?
WYRTZEN: Start usually with creation and who Christ is, the Creator. Talk about the virgin birth, the miracles, take a long while over essentials, hit hard on the part of atonement and the resurrection. And Charlie was very gifted at that. They'd come up to him and rub his skin, you know, and then they'd rub theirs. "Just like ours." But he didn't know the language, and they couldn't understand why he didn't know their language. And...I don't think he ever looked at me as a white and I never looked at him as a black. We just were very, very close brothers, and clear understanding, all the time. He and his wife come up here quite often to camp. Ox of a guy. He used to tell people he was my bodyguard.
SHUSTER: Herbert J. Taylor. We mentioned George Beverly Shea and of course Beverly Shea was the soloist on...
SHUSTER: ...on Taylor's Club Time [radio] program for a number of years.
WYRTZEN: I only met him once or twice. I....I wouldn't have any opinion of him, except he was a good friend of Bev's.
SHUSTER: Charles Templeton. Chuck Templeton.
WYRTZEN: One of the most gifted preachers I ever heard.
SHUSTER: Why do you say that? What...what were his gifts as a preacher?
WYRTZEN: Oh, he was eloquent. Very gifted. And he ran Youth for Christ of all Canada, he ran the Avenue Road Church in Toronto, had rallies at Maple Leaf Gardens. I had them in New York, spoke at banquets and St. Nick's arena. Very, very close friend of mine. Then his work started to go down a little bit in Canada, and he got it in the head, as many young fellows did, "Well, I'll get more education." He came in to see me (my office was then in downtown New York), and he had a...his Scofield Bible under his arm. And he said, "What do you think of the idea...I'm going to Princeton Univ...Princeton Seminary?" I said, "Hey, you can't go to Princeton, that's too liberal, neo-orthodox. And that's...." You know, neo-orthodox is probably a better word to explain Fuller Seminary, too. And... "Now," he said, "Look, I know the Bible." Well, a year later he had gotten rid of the Scofield and two years later I felt, when he came through New York, had a lot of doubts about the Bible. Three years later he became the evangelist of the Presbyterian Church and then the National Council [of Churches]. Then he walked into the National Council office at Riverside Drive and said, "Look, here's the Bible, I don't believe any of this any more." And he divorced his wife, who I knew very well. Beautiful voice, lovely Mexican girl. Went back to Canada, and for a couple of years lived with a pussy cat. Then he got married and then ran to be premier of Ontario and got licked. Very well-known to this day in Canada, radio, television commentator. I think...my own personal opinion is, he got very jealous of Billy Graham. In all fairness, I must say that he's a much greater preacher than Billy or I or any of the rest of us. I mean, he was eloquent. But I think that he thought that he should have been the Billy Graham. At any rate, I was standing with Dr. Doxy [?] a few years ago, and he happened to have had Templeton's phone number, so I called him late one Sunday night. And he wouldn't believe it was Jack Wyrtzen calling, and he said, "Whadda you want?" "Oh," I said, "I'm just calling to tell you that God still loves the biggest stinker in all of Canada." [Shuster laughs] I said, "Chuck, I'm glad you led people to Christ and not to yourself. I meet your converts all over the place." That's my last contact with him.
SHUSTER: What did he say when you said that?
WYRTZEN: Well, he kind of chuckled. He wanted me to tell about some of the converts. Boy, I'd like to see him come back.
SHUSTER: What do you think led him away?
WYRTZEN: Princeton Seminary. You know, you can't sleep with dogs without getting fleas. And if you go to these guys and hang around them and sooner or later, it goes over on you.
SHUSTER: But why would that be the case for someone who had a strong faith? I mean, why...?
WYRTZEN: I don't know. Paul said, "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophies and vain deceit." [Colossians 2:8] I think the philosophies of Princeton ruined him. And then he had family problems, I guess.
SHUSTER: You mentioned a little earlier that with Tom Skinner perhaps the problem was being given too much notoriety or authority.
WYRTZEN: Not so with Templeton, no. I mean, he had it all before he went to Princeton. I mean, he preached in Maple Leaf [Gardens] and he had Percy Crawford up there. I asked him how Percy did (he invited me up), and he said, " Well, I thought he was kind of hard preaching on hell." But that's kind of the guy Crawford was.
SHUSTER: W. C. Townsend.
WYRTZEN: Cam Townsend.
SHUSTER: Wycliffe Bible Translators.
WYRTZEN: He's been up here many times with his wife. Very, very dear people. He's done a magnificent job, spreading the Word, far and far and far. Very close friend. I've spoken to him often.
SHUSTER: How would you characterize him as a man? What are his personality...what was his personality?
WYRTZEN: Great man of vision, great man of vision. One day he came to me, he said, "I'm going to Russia," and I think he got way up into Siberia amongst the tribes. And he learned Russian, so did his wife. Nothing was too hard for Cam.
SHUSTER: Now of course, Wycliffe Bible Translators and SIL [Summer Institute of Linguistics] is a very large organization. What kind of leader was he? What kind of organizational leader was he from your observation?
WYRTZEN: He had a good way of spreading leadership. I don't think they have any trouble with leadership. Again, with all the blood, sweat, and tears all over the world, you know, there's no time to get into these stupid things that Americans get into, I mean at home here. You know, when you're living among savages. Like we got a couple of Wycliffe girls now...we have ten books of the Bible for the Serbanties [?] and I think Harry said one or two of these girls are trying to translate the rest of the Bible. Well, they don't have time for these picky, crazy things that we get into in America. They have a job to do. They're facing death and disease and everything else. Amazing, absolutely amazing. Not perfect, I guess, by any means, any more than anybody else is.
SHUSTER: Now he, of course, had been...a close friend of the President of Mexico [Lázaro Cárdenas]...
SHUSTER: ...and of leaders in some of the other South American countries, other countries, and received some criticism for that. How would you respond to that?
WYRTZEN: Well, I think that the Lord put him before great men. I never knew Cam to compromise with any of them. I met with a lot of leaders. Just in the last few months our guys have been with the president of...of Kenya, the president of Portugal, the vice president of Peru. Great. If you can get in there, talk to them about the Lord. What does Billy Graham do? He's with everybody. I've never heard him quote what he does, but I just imagine that he's talking all about the Lord. At least I hope he is. And I'm sure that Cam was the same way. You know, you don't talk too much about what you say to leaders.
SHUSTER: Why's that?
WYRTZEN: Well, it's sort of none of anybody's business. And you don't want to quote these guys, you know, but you want to have an impact on them. When you see a hunger there, you want to try to fill it. But I think we should not try to...use these men.
SHUSTER: Exploit them.
WYRTZEN: Exploit them, yeah.
SHUSTER: You mentioned a little bit about Dawson Trotman. What was the relationship of the Navigators with Word of Life?
WYRTZEN: Well, we both kind of started out together. He'd come and work with us and we'd go out and work with them often. Lorne Sanny, who became the next president, very, very fine.... He was a preacher's preacher.
SHUSTER: Dawson Trotman?
WYRTZEN: Yeah, he was a leader of leaders. He...he liked one-on-one. And after he straightened us up on...on follow-up, I found out that Torrey Johnson, Billy Graham, and the fellow we just mentioned in Canada.
SHUSTER: Troutman? No....
WYRTZEN: No, Chuck Templeton.
WYRTZEN: Templeton. They were all going out to the Rose Bowl football game. So I wrote out (then you never called anybody)...I wrote out to Dawson, and said, "Dawson, these three guys are going to be out there, and they don't know anything about follow-up work either, you ought to challenge them." (This is back in the 40s). "You ought to really challenge them to follow-up." He wrote back and said, "I'm not interested." He said, "These flighty evangelists, they get big crowds forward? Boloney!" I wrote back and said, "Hey, if you're going to remain my friend, you're going to see these guys." And he did see them, and he gave them a great challenge. And I think one of the great things out of the Billy Graham crusades is the follow-up work of Dawson's.
SHUSTER: As you know, the Navigators did their [the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's] follow-up work for many years. Charlie Riggs....
SHUSTER: ...originally came from the Navigators.
WYRTZEN: And I told.... When Dawson was at my house one day, he got a letter from his headquarters out in California (and I lived in New York at the time, out on Long Island) that six of the Navigators were fooling around with the tongues movement. Well, he was so upset, he never went back to headquarters. He got on a plane, flew out to Tokyo, and he said, "You guys either shape up, quit all this nonsense, or get out of the Navs." As I recall, three quit and three got straightened out. The three that quit you never heard from again. But.... And Dawson's a strong guy in doctrine, great on..... And I wouldn't say Dawson was one of the greatest speakers with a crowd. You never knew what the guy was going to do. I gave him a thousand young teenagers in Times Square one night, and there were five or six guys in uniform in the front, all Navy guys. And he said, "Are you guys connected with Navigators? "Yeah." Okay, stand up. What'd you get out of your quiet time this morning?" (In front of a thousand kids.) "How many verses did you memorize this week?" I mean, these guys looked like they...they nearly cringed. I mean, you know, he had that fist, and he'd come at you...wow. He'd....we were with him many a time. And Lolla [?], his wife, and the kids are all good friends...very good friends.
SHUSTER: Now, he had died at Schroon Lake, is that...?
WYRTZEN: Yeah, I was with him. He was...he was a nut. He was a great humorist, a great joker. And...uh... he wanted me to take a bunch of the Navs who were having a conference down at our ranch. He wanted me to take them out in the speed boat. And there were...there was another...I think there were two gals in the front and him. And he said, "Get up in the back seat, you'll enjoy it better." And it was quite rough that day. And he said, "I'll hold on" And he was holding on. And then we hit a..the boat came down and we hit a wave, and this girl, who was on his left, slid off the side of the boat into the lake. And he knew she couldn't swim, so he dove in. And he brought her up to the boat, and we got her in no sweat at all. And somebody said, "Where's Daws?" Well, he's such a joker that somebody said that, "I think he's under the boat." Well, it'd been just like him to hold his breath and go under the boat, but all of a sudden he didn't come up. Oh, dear. And then...Lolla....we...we searched for his body for three days before we found it.
SHUSTER: Did he have a heart attack...or...
WYRTZEN: I don't think so. It was a rough day and I think he swallowed too much water. Maybe it was, I don't know. I don't think the coroner thought it was a heart attack. But then, Lolla told me (his wife) that the night before he drowned he was driving around the Adirondacks and he had to pull the car to the side of the road and he had to put the light on. And he said, "Take some notes. I have the idea that I'm going home soon to the Lord. And the Navs ought to do this, this, this, this in the next five years." So she took his death very well. Far better than I or any of the rest of us. Bob and Billy and I had his funeral.
SHUSTER: What..how would you characterize him as a leader? We've talked about some other leaders of organizations.
WYRTZEN: Yeah,. Absolutely tremendous. Knew how to spread leadership and it's still going on today the same way.
SHUSTER: Was he the kind of person who could delegate?
WYRTZEN: Very much so. Uh-huh. Yep. [pauses] I mean, you look at some of the key guys across this country that he trained, whew!
SHUSTER: Such as...why don't you name a few.
WYRTZEN: Well, Lorne Sanny, who followed him. Jerry White, who now followed Lorne Sanny. I was out there a couple of years ago with him, maybe a year and a half ago. And Jim...oh, what's...the executive vice president? He was a chief petty officer, and a lieutenant. A lot of wonderful guys. I don't know of any Nav leader anyplace in the world that I would have liked to have on our staff. Memory, quiet time, in the Word, teacher in the Word, soul-winners. No class....you know, you don't really read much about the Navs. I don't think they even have a publicity officer and anybody that puts publicity out. But, they're in there constantly doing their job.
SHUSTER: Again, somebody you mentioned a little earlier. Jim Truxton of....
WYRTZEN: Yeah, I don't think there's anything I can add to that. Lieutenant James Truxton of the United States Navy, flier.
SHUSTER: And Glen Wagener...of Washington....
WYRTZEN: Yeah, Glen Wagener, President of Washington Bible College. University of Illinois football player, saved through Paul Rader. He and I traveled all over the world together. One of my very, very close friends. He was an All-American at the University of Illinois. He...great, big, huge guy, weighed three hundred pounds. Great sense of humor. And we traveled Korea, Japan, South America, Mexico. And his wife, family...good friends. I led both his boys to the Lord. Preached on John 3, and that's what he got saved under. All at different times.
SHUSTER: How would you describe him as a man?
WYRTZEN: Good organizer. He went with me to Mexico and after what he saw in Mexico, he said, "Half of everything I do...the income, any...like most Washington Bible College.... Half of the income has to go to missions." And I think he resigned the presidency because they didn't want to do that. Then he went full time with Pocket Testament League and distributed.... I mean, he met with General [Douglas] MacArthur, he met with the heads of China before China fell, and he knew how to meet with these men. He and I were with Syngman Rhee, who was the President of Korea, and they all looked up to him. Hated liberalism of any kind.
SHUSTER: Do you know Harry Simmer of the Good News Jail and Prison Ministry?
WYRTZEN: No, the only one I know in prison ministry is Chuck Colson.
SHUSTER: I just mentioned that because I interviewed him and he went to Washington Bible.
SHUSTER: And Glen Wagener, I guess, was at Princeton going into jail ministry [unclear]. J. Elwin Wright, who was with the New England Fellowship, who was one of the organizers of NAE and World Evangelical Fellowship....
WYRTZEN: Yeah, he would have me for a lot of rallies up at the Bible Conference, Boston...but I never got to know him...
SHUSTER: As a person.
WYRTZEN: Not as a person. I mean, he'd be chairing a meeting that I would speak at.
SHUSTER: Did you...and you spoke at Rumney? [Camp grounds of the New England Fellowship in New Hampshire.]
WYRTZEN: Uh-huh. Often. [pauses] They were going years before we were going.
SHUSTER: Uh-huh. As I mentioned, of course, he was one of the organizers of NAE, the National Association of Evangelicals. So was Ralph Davis in the beginning. How did you react to NAE when that was being put together?
WYRTZEN: We were just so busy, we didn't have time to get into...and then I knew there was a big fight between McIntire and the American Council [of Christian Churches] and the NAE and I don't want to get caught in the middle of it. They were all good friends and I just didn't get into it. Often we were pulled on both sides to go in, but.... You know, it's like I'm not a member of the Camping Association, NRB [National religious Broadcasters]. I just don't have time. I mean, there's only twenty-four hours a day and all of these conferences goes on a week here and a week there. I won't have time to do what God calls us to do.
SHUSTER: I was wondering, too, from some of the things you were talking about earlier, about being over-organized or organizing nation-wide programs, if philosophically you would have a reason for staying out, for staying independent of groups like NAE or the Camping Association of...is that true, or is that not the case?
WYRTZEN: Yeah, perhaps so, but overall I don't see what good they actually do. [Portion of interview omitted] And too much compromise. I mean, I'll drop in, and I'm going to the Presidential Prayer Breakfast probably this year (I haven't had time to go the last couple of years). I'll drop in on it a day just to meet along as old friends. And two years ago I went to Bev Shea's birthday party. But again, we just don't have time, and I don't see that they accomplish that much. I go to the Camping Association, and they have huge booths on how you buy corn flakes and.... [laughs] We're one of the biggest, the biggest buys in the Adirondacks so....you know, we have two thousand a week who will come along in the winter time. So I wouldn't....I don't care about that stuff.
SHUSTER: Somebody's who not on the list, but you mentioned the Prayer Breakfast. The founder of the International Christian Leadership and started most of the Prayer Breakfast movement...Abraham...
SHUSTER: ...Vereide. Did you know him at all or have contact with him?
WYRTZEN: I just met him. Very casual. The Prayer Breakfast can be anything from soup to nuts. A couple of years ago they had a man, I thought he was a Muslim or a Hindu, and it was terrible. A lot of my.... I wouldn't go that year. A lot of my friends walked out. But two years ago they had James Baker (who's wife had just recently led him to the Lord) our Secretary of State. And I read his testimony; it was tremendous. They've had Senator Charles Grassley [from Iowa] there. Art Monk, who was saved at our ranch, the football player of the Washington Redskins. They've had a lot of good people. Once in a while they have people who don't say very much. Again, it's sort of a nice thing to go it to because it's only a couple of hours and you meet all your old friends there. [laughs]
SHUSTER: Now you've talked a bit about Billy Graham, as well, and some of your contacts over the years and some of the ways you agree with him and disagree with him. You participated, I believe, in the 1957 New York Crusade...
WYRTZEN: Right, Uh-huh.
SHUSTER: ...but not later ones. What was the reason for participating and then not participating later?
WYRTZEN: Mind you, Billy had spoken at our revivals at the tabernacle at Carnegie Hall, and I had spoken with him. And I think today, he'd would say that he's my good friend and I'm his good friend. And again, I think you can agree to disagree and love a person even though I couldn't go on with him. For instance, in the first meeting, I was on the committee there, of some kind, and....
SHUSTER: That was the '57 meeting?
WYRTZEN: Yeah. And there was...I had my doubts because it was being sponsored by the Protestant Council. I imagine some people thought I was jealous because we had offered to sponsor it. We had lots of rallies in the Garden. And Billy refused that, or the Christian Businessman's Committee.
SHUSTER: Now why did he refuse that and go with the Protestant Counsel?
WYRTZEN: Well, I think Billy felt he could reach more people. And....
SHUSTER: Because of the wider...
WYRTZEN: Uh-huh. I never questioned Billy's motives, but I think sometimes it's the end that justifies the means with him. It just seemed the more we got into the Crusade.... For instance, the first night I was not there, I was preaching up in Rochester. The second night I was there, and I led in prayer that night. The third night I was there and they called on a Seventh Day Adventist preacher to lead in prayer. You know, I immediately thought of some of the campaigns we've had in other countries and the opposition we got from the Seventh Day Adventists. That bothered me. And then he had John [name unclear] invited and he had [Norman] Vincent Peale, and that bothered me because they were on the Protestant Council and had fought us, and....
END OF TAPE