William Branham (1907-1965) was a Pentecostal minister from Jeffersonville, Indiana credited by some as initiating the Post WWII Healing Revival. The first of ten children of Charles and Ella Branham, Branham claimed to have been born in Cumberland County, KY and reared in the booming Southern Indiana casino town directly across the river from Louisville, KY. He was also a "doomsday prophet", predicting several years that he claimed to be the End of Days.
When American Prohibition disrupted the thriving liquor industry of the local area, Branham's family became poor and destitute. Branham's father, employed as a driver for Otto Wathen of the R. E. Wathen Distilleries, was arrested for violation of the liquor laws, worsening their hardship. At the time, William was in critical condition in the Clark Memorial hospital after being shot. The Ku Klux Klan came to the rescue, paying his hospital bill and making an impact on his life that he would never forget.
Shortly after the Klan was exposed for taking control of the Indiana government, Roy E. Davis came to Jeffersonville claiming to be a Christian evangelist and becoming a choir leader for Ralph Rader. Davis was at one time an official spokesperson for William Joseph Simmons' 1915 revival of the Klan, as well as a high-ranking member. He was also affiliated with other white supremacy groups Simmons created such as the "Knights of the Flaming Sword." Shortly after being appointed as an elder of the Rader Gospel Tabernacle, past crimes of swindling, fraud, and multiple violations of underaged sex caught up with him. Davis was terminated from Rader's church, and started a Pentecostal church taking several members from Rader's congregation. It was at this Pentecostal church that Davis claims to have converted William Branham into his first Pentecostal Assembly. According to William Branham, Davis was his mentor, the one who baptized him, imparted the "Holy Ghost," and appointed him as a minister. Shortly after, Davis was extradited by the Governor of the State of Indiana to the casino town of Hot Springs, Arkansas on charges of grand theft and connection to murder. William Branham seized the opportunity, taking control of Davis' rowdy church and forming the Billie Branham Pentecostal Tabernacle in 1936.
A year later, the 1937 Flood demolished the town of Jeffersonville. The once thriving casino town nicknamed "Little Vegas" that once attracted the likes of Al Capone and John Dillenger suddenly was leveled to a desolate wasteland. Later that year, Branham's first wife Hope died from a disease she contracted in January of 1936, and his daughter died shortly after.
In 1944, Roy E. Davis joined forces with former Congressman William D. Upshaw in an operation under the disguise of a children's orphanage in San Bernardino California. Soon after the orphanage was exposed for swindling thousands of dollars from the Los Angeles area and being the defendant in a highly publicized criminal lawsuit, Davis introduced Upshaw to William Branham. A year later, in 1945, William Branham began his evangelistic "healing" ministry, and Upshaw (who had witnessed been physically running since 1936) entered one of Branham's meetings as an "invalid" in a wheelchair. When Upshaw was "healed" from his "bedridden" condition, Branham's fame in the faith healing business quickly spread.
By 1947, William Branham had embellished many events of his "life story," removing the details that would raise skepticism and adding "supernatural" aspects. He started claiming to have had several conflicting "commissions" by God, and introduced a tragic but partially fictional story of his life. Over time, his stage persona began to include stories of being born under a supernatural sign, having a prophetic gift as a toddler, fatherless at an early age, and more. Even the tragic death of his wife was embelished to become part of the story. It was such an interesting tale that he became the side show for Little David Walker, the 12-year-old boy preacher. Before long, William and his brother Howard Branham, who ran a Jeffersonville nightclub, started touring the country to participate in the "healing revival". His new stage persona, combined with Upshaw's "healing," was very powerful in lifting Branham to the top of the revival. He had a very successful series of meetings throughout parts of the United States and Canada, but his success began to fade shortly after when ministers began to notice many people "healed" were dying or worsening in condition.
Roy E. Davis, who had not been (directly) involved with the Branham campaign, wrote a letter to the Voice of Healing publication produced by Branham's campaign managers to cross-promote Branham's and his own evangelism. But by this time, William Branham had started distancing himself from many churches, claiming to be the return of "Elijah the prophet." Telling his listeners that he had buried his prophecies in his Jeffersonville Tabernacle in 1933 (the church he purchased in 1936), Branham used the grip of fear from the Second Red Scare to create a following that would replace his quickly diminishing listeners.
During the birth of the Civil Rights movement, Branham began leaning back towards his Ku Klux Klan roots. He began claiming that Martin Luther King was "communistic inspired," African Americans should "forfeit their rights" and be "satisfied in the state [they are] in," and that "hybreeding" (interracial marriage) was an impardonable sin. But he continued the "Elijah" claims as well, eventually convincing his listeners that the "Elijah of this day" [himself] was the return of Jesus Christ. After Branham's death in 1965, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's query into the Kennedy Assassination exposed the fact that Roy E. Davis was in fact the Imperial Grand Dragon of the Original Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, as well as a a strong leader, promoter, and supporter of several white supremacy groups.
Many who were with William Branham during the early years agree that William Branham's doctrinal teachings were destructive, and for that reason was constrained to "healing" and not "preaching." Testimonies from Ern Baxter, Alfred Pohl, Gordon Lindsay, and others refer to Branham's "Message" cult with distaste, and many examinations of the fruits of Branham's ministry have produced confirmation of its destructive nature.
William Branham was directly responsible for igniting the ministry of Jim Jones in Indianapolis. From 1956 through 1957, Branham and his campaign team held meetings with Jones at Peoples Temple and the Cadle Tabernacle, and Branham held private consultations with members of Peoples Temple. There are deep concerns when you compare Branham's "Message" to Jim Jones' "Message." Branham-focused communes in Prescott, Arizona and Colonia Dignidad have exposed the sexual molestation, abuse and rape that have been hidden behind closed doors. Branham's "Message" cult following has been labeled as a destructive or heretical cult by many apologetics and cult watch groups, such as Watchman Fellowship.