This biography is a cautionary tale. Not every person who attaches themselves to a move of God necessarily has Godly qualities. Not everyone who claims anointing from God has the character that God requires to carry that anointing. Christians must be “wise as serpents” while “being innocent as doves.” O.L. Jaggers was a name known best at the beginning of the healing revival. He was a gifted speaker and musical performer. He was also a man with moral failures, character issues, and unbiblical teachings.
Orval Lee Jaggers was born January 8, 1916 to David and Fludie (Detrick) Jaggers in Dardenell, Arkansas. David Jaggers is usually referred to as an Assemblies of God (AOG) Pastor. The reality was that the AOG was a fairly new denomination with few requirements in becoming a pastor. David had a tenth grade education and had been a farm laborer, mattress maker, and a machine salesman before becoming an AOG pastor in the 1930s. There is no record of any theological training. Orval Lee caused the family a lot of difficulties. He became involved with Ruby Opal Coppedge and she became pregnant. The family was living in Oklahoma and the couple went over the border to Arkansas to get married. The problem was that the marriage certificate listed Orval Lee as 21 and Ruby Opal as 18. In reality Ruby was 18 but Orval Lee was only 16 years old! The marriage quickly fell apart and Ruby left their daughter Joan to be raised by Orval Lee and his parents. Orval Lee managed to finish High School but more trouble was on the horizon. When Orval Lee was about 20 he got involved with Julia Allene (Smith) Wright, a slightly older woman with two children from her previous marriage. They married in 1936 and by August 1937 had a son named Larry Duane Jaggers. That marriage also fell apart quickly. By 1940 the couple was still married but separated. Orval Lee was making a living by making mattresses. Larry Duane was eventually adopted by Orval Lee’s sister Omah and her husband Aussie Abernathy because Orval Lee was unable to care for him on his own. The autobiography that Jaggers created for the Voice of Healing organization about his early years made incredible and outrageous claims that barely had anything to do with the reality of those years.
In 1941 Orval Lee made the decision to become and AOG evangelist. Once again there was a lack of any theological training or even basic character requirements. Did he tell the AOG about his two divorces? It seems unlikely that he would have been accepted if they had been informed. He became an evangelist in the rural mid-west region. There is not much known about the years between 1941 and 1945. In 1945 O.L. Jaggers started appearing in advertised meetings in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Illinois. He advertised as preaching, singing, playing piano and electric guitar, and also making music on golden goblets. Unusual claims of importance were showing themselves in the mid-1940s. Advertisements touted “golden goblets of antiquity from all over the world worth $4000.” He also claimed to be a concert pianist. He claimed he had been on 28 radio stations, when there is no record he had been on even one. It appears his performances were quite a success and he found his niche.
O.L. Jaggers would have probably stayed an evangelist with a small level of influence except for one thing, the break out of the healing revival spurred by the extraordinary giftings of William Branham. Branham held meetings in late 1946 and into 1947 in Arkansas. Jaggers went to the Branham’s meetings and was astounded by what he saw. Branham was drawing people by the thousands. Branham would later say that Jaggers followed him around pestering him with questions. Jaggers got a vision for much larger things. He began holding healing meetings of his own. The first report of a Jaggers healing meeting in the Voice of Healing Magazine appeared in May 1949. Although he was a Voice of Healing evangelist there were problems right from the beginning with reports he sent in to the magazine to publish. The number of attendees and the number of healings he described did not match up with the reports of those who attended his meetings. It got so bad that the assistant editor of the magazine refused to handle his reports because she believed they were highly exaggerated. The Voice of Healing leadership should have addressed the problems quickly. Instead they let them drag on as the leaders focused on other issues in the fast growing organization.
In April 1952 O.L. Jaggers went to Los Angeles California to hold meetings. People attended by the thousands and the meetings went on for several months. He decided to start a church known as the World Church. Jaggers was at the pinnacle of his influence. He attempted to have other healing revivalists come under his leadership but they were not interested. Jaggers’ teaching focused on sensational topics that drew crowds to listen to him. This included teachings on UFOs, space aliens, atomic bombs, and the communist threat.
The decision to not deal with Jaggers issues would come to haunt Gordon Lindsay and the Voice of Healing leadership. Jaggers would claim on the radio that letters for him were pouring in by the millions. He attended Voice of Healing conventions making wildly impossible claims. At one point he claimed that when he spoke at a convention God supernaturally put him on television all over the United States. Gordon Lindsay confronted him since it was patently untrue. There was a break that was smoothed over but Jaggers decided to move on beyond the Voice of Healing structure. Gordon Lindsay called him a man “full of pride.” William Branham warned Jaggers to return to the basics of the gospel. Jaggers had his church and he could teach and preach whatever he wanted. By 1955 he’d disconnected from any organization or person who could curb his excesses or influence his thinking. When fellow healing evangelist Jack Coe died suddenly in December 1956 Jaggers contacted Coe’s wife Juanita and chastised her for not calling him to pray for Coe. Jaggers told her Coe would not have died if he had prayed for his fellow minister. He claimed if she asked him that he would fly out and raise Coe from the dead. Juanita Coe, knowing Jaggers, did not take him up on the offer. It was neither desired nor welcomed.
In 1957 things became increasingly bizarre. Jaggers paid $839,000 as a down payment on a $2,900,000 ranch. Not only did Jaggers use church funds to do so, but he personally borrowed from members promising to pay them back quickly. Jaggers claimed he was building a city for Christians. He announced he would build a $25,000,000 temple in one year. He also told his church and local newspapers that his city would be the “New Jerusalem” and God’s presence would come and rest on the temple. He said that people would come from all over the world to visit his city. Of course Jaggers saw himself at the center of all of God’s work. 1957 was also the year that Jaggers married for the third time. He married his first cousin Velma Mary Lee Jaggers. The wedding had hundreds of guests and every place had a donation envelope so that the wedding and honeymoon would be paid for. “Miss Velma” as she became known stayed with Jaggers and participated in all of his increasingly weird teachings and found her niche in odd theatrical productions. Jaggers must have thought he was on top of the world.
The Christian city and associated claims quickly unraveled. The church could not possibly keep up with the payments required to pay for the ranch. Members who had outstanding loans asked to be paid back, and even had to take Jaggers to court over their funds. Even the kickoff meeting for the ranch ran into trouble when the electrical company was not paid for the extra work they put in to get electricity to the ranch site. Over the next two years, the original ranch owners took Jaggers to court to either force him to pay what was owed or to sell the property. Jaggers in turn didn’t show up for court dates, claimed paperwork was stolen, claimed his signature was a fake, claimed that the water on the ranch did not meet original promises, and generally tried to stall the inevitable outcome. After two years the ranch property was sold and the end of Jaggers’s dream of being the center of the Christian universe came to nothing.
The crisis caused the church to decline and it never recovered. Jaggers was no longer a daily news item and his teachings became increasingly unbiblical and weird. He taught that God was created by space aliens. He began a school where he gave himself several honorary degrees. These included Doctor of Science, Doctor of Biology and Divine Physics, Doctor of Literature, Doctor of Divinity, Doctor of Philosophy, Doctor of Nuclear Biology, and Ph.D. Professor of Human Genetics in the University Research. Not to be outdone Miss Velma also received several honorary degrees including Doctor of Divinity, Doctor of Science, and Doctor of Physiological Botany and Dendrology. Miss Velma claimed to have a vision of how to have eternal life on this earth. The couple regularly taught that you did not have to face death. That did not stop them from getting older themselves.
The church became known for its kitschy theatrical productions. Locals would visit the church just to watch the outrageous shows. Jaggers wore self-designed robes that look somewhat alien. They built a gold altar that Jaggers claimed weighed 35 tons and was made out of “solid gold polyester.” He also claimed healing oil flowed from his hands. The church became increasingly small. O.L. Jaggers died on January 10, 2004. He was no longer known outside of the small number of church members who remained. He was followed in death by Miss Velma on August 21, 2004. Neither escaped the death that they taught could be avoided.
Someone has suggested that Jaggers had a narcissistic personality disorder. The disorder is characterized by a long-standing pattern of grandiosity, either in fantasy or actual behavior, an overwhelming need for admiration, and usually a complete lack of empathy toward others. O.L. Jaggers was drawn to the healing movement because it gave him the admiration, influence, and power that he craved. He quickly abandoned the movement when his fantasies were questioned and he could receive the adulation he desired within his own church organization. For Jaggers healing was only a means to an end. In any move of God there will be a mixture of those who are truly following God and those who are only seeking their own glory. It is important that we discern the difference.