Cover Story

Names ...

... and notables

Issue: "Year in Review 1997," Dec. 27, 1997

Eccentric media mogul Ted Turner announced a donation of $1 billion-about one-third of his personal fortune-to agencies of the United Nations. To administer the gift, the founder of CNN and husband of Jane Fonda tapped one of the nation's foremost abortion supporters and population control advocates: former U.S. Sen. Tim Wirth. Unassuming Iowa couple Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey became the focus of national attention when Mrs. McCaughey gave birth to septuplets. Gifts, ranging from diapers to college tuition, poured in from around the world. The McCaugheys, evangelical believers, gave praise to God at every opportunity. Some observers fretted about use of fertility drugs. Others criticized "litters of babies." John G. Bennett Jr., the disgraced founder of the Foundation for New Era Philanthropy, chose to plead no contest to an 82-count federal indictment that charged him with defrauding hundreds of Christian, charitable, and cultural groups. He was sentenced to 12 years, with no opportunity for parole. From 1989 to 1995, the affable Mr. Bennett had enticed hundreds of churches, Bible colleges, and other nonprofit organizations to "invest" with his foundation, promising that secretive philanthropists would double participants' money and return it within six months. New Era turned out to be a pyramid scheme, in which money from early "investors" was doubled using funds coming in from later participants. Chavis Muhammad (nee Benjamin Chavis), a United Church of Christ minister who had been fired as head of the NAACP in the wake of a misuse of funds scandal in 1994, converted to Islam, becoming a top associate of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Claiming he still believed in Christ and could be "completely obedient to God in the Nation of Islam," Mr. Chavis intended to maintain his ministerial credentials in the United Church of Christ. Denominational officials refused to go along and removed him from membership. Ralph Reed stepped down as executive director of the Christian Coalition to form a political consulting firm. Both friends and foes praised Mr. Reed's skill in melding once-disorganized grassroots Christians into a cohesive and potent political force. Named to replace Mr. Reed was former Republican Congressman Randy Tate. Don Hodel, secretary of the Interior under President Reagan, became the coalition's new president, replacing the group's founder, Pat Robertson, who assumed the newly created position of chairman of the board. Sgt. Maj. Gene McKinney, the Army's highest-ranking enlisted soldier, faced a court-martial on nearly two dozen misconduct charges brought by six women. Meanwhile, adultery kept Air Force Gen. Joseph Ralston from becoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And Kelly Flinn, the first female B-52 pilot, was discharged for a tryst with a civilian married to one of her Air Force colleagues. Responding to widespread reports of sexual harassment-and sexual activity-in the ranks, a Pentagon panel recommended common-sense solutions: Men and women in the military should be kept apart during basic training, live in totally separate barracks, and be put in platoons and other basic organizational units that are segregated by sex.

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Nick Eicher
Nick Eicher

Nick lives in St. Louis, loves the Blues (as in the NHL), is executive producer of WORLD Radio, and co-hosts WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickEicher.

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