For 45 years, the American Family Association (AFA) has stood at the forefront of upholding and strengthening "the moral foundations of American culture" and "giv[ing] aid to the church here and abroad in its task of fulfilling the Great Commission." With Wednesday's grand opening of the 20,000-square-foot, two-story Don Wildmon Center for Cultural Transformation in Tupelo, Miss., AFA will be well equipped to "combat the forces that seek to destroy Christian influence in America and overthrow the founding principles of our republic" for years to come.
As the center's name suggests, the transformational work that AFA has been doing for almost a half-century would not have been possible without its beloved founder Don Wildmon.
"I knew Dad was starting something special," said AFA President Tim Wildmon on "Washington Watch." "He was a Methodist pastor at the time [of AFA's founding]. He left the pulpit and started the National Federation for Decency, which is today the American Family Association. So I knew he was doing something highly unusual, stepping out of the pastorate. And then one thing after another happened. Next thing I know, my Dad's on Donahue's television show and people are telling me, 'Hey, I saw your dad on national TV.' He started to get a lot of attention for helping to lead a movement of Christians to become engaged in the culture and to respond to the wickedness and evil that we saw beginning to spread even before the '70s."
Wildmon went on to discuss how his father, along with other noted leaders of the Moral Majority of the late '70s and early '80s, saw the writing on the wall of where America was headed. "[They saw that it was] time not just to talk about things going on in our churches and not just evangelism -- which is certainly a foremost mission of the church -- but also to get involved in politics and government and public policy, because if we don't, the other side is going to win by default."
FRC President Tony Perkins, who delivered remarks honoring Don at the Center's unveiling event in Tupelo, noted that he helped FRC get "Washington Watch" off the ground. "[Don] was one of the first individuals I met when I came to the Family Research Council," Perkins said. "[He is] just a tremendous man of God ... the American Family Association reflects this. They are very giving; they came alongside us. [AFA] really got us started in radio. When I wanted to start, I came and talked to you and you helped us with the air time."
That spirit of generosity came from a humble heart. "[Don] didn't care who got the credit," Perkins emphasized. "I think it's remarkable what your father did here, not only with establishing the American Family Association, but also passing it on as you have stepped into leadership."
"Dad is and always has been a very humble man," Wildmon observed. "But he's also been very shrewd [and] very smart ... [He] came from the country -- from the sticks of northeast Mississippi. But he graduated from Emory, a four-year program, in three years ... Dad wrote 22 books that he basically sold himself. This was back in the '60s and '70s. [He sold] a half million copies of inspirational books that he wrote. He led tours to Israel and to Europe. He was always a guy that was accomplishing things and he was driven. But he was also a very good father and husband and just a dedicated Christian and loved working with other folks like you, Tony, to help get Christians motivated and involved."
To find out more about AFA's mission and work, visit AFA.net.