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Ballard, Edna Anne Wheeler (25 June 1886–10 February 1971), and Guy Warren Ballard (28 July 1878–29 December 1939), controversial founders of the "I Am" movement, controversial founders of the “I Am” movement, were born, respectively, in Burlington, Iowa, and Newton, Kansas. Edna was the daughter of Edward G. Wheeler, reportedly a railway clerk, and Anna Hewitt Pearce; Guy the son of a farmer, Josephus Ballard, and Phebe Jane Leigh. “I Am” was a religious movement that grew at a phenomenal rate in the 1930s, became the subject of a celebrated fraud case and a landmark freedom of religion decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1940s, and has since held a modest but continuing place in American spiritual life....

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See Edna Ballard and Guy Ballard

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Grace, Charles Emmanuel (25 January 1881–12 January 1960), Boyfriend of the World, better known as Daddy Grace or Sweet Daddy Grace or by his self-proclaimed title, was one of the more flamboyant African-American religious personalities of the twentieth century. He was born, probably as Marceline Manoel da Graca, in Brava, Cape Verde Islands, of mixed Portuguese and African ancestry, the son of Manuel de Graca and Gertrude Lomba. In the charismatic church that he founded and headed, however, he managed to transcend race by declaring, “I am a colorless man. I am a colorless bishop. Sometimes I am black, sometimes white. I preach to all races.” Like many other Cape Verdeans, Grace immigrated to New Bedford, Massachusetts, around the turn of the century and worked there and on Cape Cod as a short-order cook, a salesman of sewing machines and patent medicines and a cranberry picker....

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Hubbard, L. Ron (13 March 1911–24 January 1986), writer and founder of Dianetics and Scientology, was born Lafayette Ronald Hubbard in Tilden, Nebraska, the son of Harry Ross Hubbard, an officer in the U.S. Navy, and Ledora May Waterbury de Wolfe. Hubbard spent much of his youth with his maternal grandfather in Montana due to his father’s service in the navy. In 1923–1924 and again after 1929 Hubbard lived in Washington, D.C., graduating from high school there in 1930. Between 1927 and 1928 Hubbard traveled throughout the Far East. In 1930 he entered George Washington University but left before graduating, leading two expeditions to Central America (1932–1933) and a later one to Alaska (1940). While at the university, he conducted independent experiments on small energies (atomic and molecular physics). These experiments led directly to his research into the workings of the human mind....

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Randall, Benjamin (07 February 1749–22 October 1808), clergyman and one of the founders of the American Freewill Baptist sect, was born in New Castle, New Hampshire, the son of William Randall, a sea captain, and Margaret Mordantt. Some scholars spell his surname Randal. Young Randall often accompanied his father to sea and learned the trades of sail making and tailoring, skills he later used to provide income while an itinerant revivalist. His travels and apprenticeship did not allow for formal schooling, though it is reported by an early biographer that he took great interest in the study of religion....

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Tomlinson, A. J. (22 September 1865–02 October 1943), Pentecostal evangelist, cofounder of the Church of God in Cleveland, Tennessee, and founder of the Church of God of Prophecy, was born Ambrose Jessup Tomlinson near Westfield, Indiana, the youngest child and only son of Milton Tomlinson (1820-1899), a farmer and road contractor, and Delilah Hiatt (1826-1909). Milton, a nonpracticing Quaker prominent in local business circles and active in the Republican Party, groomed his son for the largely secular world of small-town commerce and civic duty. A gifted student, A. J. graduated from Westfield's Union High School and later performed in the drama troupe of a local literary society. After graduation he, like his father, combined farming with enterprise, partnering with a friend to launch a well-drilling business....

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White, Alma Bridwell (16 June 1862–26 June 1946), evangelist and founder of the Pillar of Fire denomination, was born Mollie Alma Bridwell in Lewis County, Kentucky, the daughter of William Bridwell, a farmer and tanner, and Mary Ann Harrison. Raised a Methodist, Alma joined a local congregation at age twelve and underwent a conversion experience four years later in which she felt the call to preach. After attending the Female Seminary in Vanceburg, Kentucky, for a year, she enrolled at Millersburg (Ky.) Female College in 1880. After teaching school in Millersburg for a year, Alma accepted an aunt’s offer to move to Bannack, Montana, a mining town seventy miles south of Butte. Between 1882 and 1886 she held a series of teaching positions. In 1887 she married Kent White, a young Methodist preacher from West Virginia, whom she had met four years earlier; they had two sons....