This was the very first of our popular articles about celebrities and talented performers who have some sort of past or present history connected to the Jehovah’s Witness religion. We’ve updated a few things and have added an extended video gallery at the end of the article. Our purpose is to fairly present these famous people and their often extensive talents. You may find yourself amazed and educated.
We’ll be updating the other articles in this same series over the next few weeks, adding expanded video galleries to each one. Please feel free to comment and let us know how you like the changes. Be sure to tell your friends to check us out.
This article was first published on April 15, 2009. Within 72 hours prior to the June 25, 2009 update, American pop culture lost three of its entertainment icons: Ed McMahon (Johnny Carson’s sidekick and foil), Farrah Fawcett (every teenage boy’s fantasy girl from 1972-1982), and Michael Jackson (so-called “King of Pop” and walking example of really bad plastic surgery) – who happened to be one of the celebrities on our first list. Please note that this list has now been updated to reflect the passing of former Jehovah’s Witness, Michael Joseph Jackson.
The following is just a short list of famous persons in politics, music and movies that are or were Jehovah’s Witnesses. There are many more that we add over time, and eventually we’ll make a master index, but this will be our starting point.
Please feel free to let us know if you know of any others. You may use the comment area at the bottom of this article, or the contact form found elsewhere on this site. We’d love to hear from you.
Here are our first five celebrity Jehovah’s Witnesses:
- Michael Jackson (performance artist)
- Mickey Spillane (pulp fiction writer)
- Prince (performance artist)
- Jill Scott (actress and singer)
- George Benson (jazz musician)
Our articles about famous and infamous celebrities continue to be reader favorites. This is the sixth in a series of brief profiles of past and present people who, besides being famous for their personal fame and news worthiness, have also been connected to some degree with Jehovah’s Witnesses during their lifetimes.
It is clear that being both famous and a Jehovah’s Witness is not easy. Some Witnesses manage to handle their association quietly and discreetly. They let their professional accomplishments speak for themselves – and otherwise stay out of the limelight. Others, however, find their fame and achievements often shadowed by their association with the religion. By far, most find that being a Witness is incompatible with being a celebrity – and then face the decision to either quit the religion or choose to leave their professional career behind.
This latest group of five is a mixed bunch. Some are in, some are out, some have relationships that are tenuous and limited, but they still count as having connections to Jehovah’s Witnesses at some point in their lives. You might find a few surprises on this list. Be sure to check out and enjoy our new video gallery at the end of the article. Feel free to comment.
- Jean Terrell (singer)
- Sherri Shepherd (TV personality)
- Hank Marvin (musician)
- “Xzibit” (singer)
- Rodney King (newsmaker)
Phinehas Treptow has taken on a big project and set himself an admirable goal to complete over the next few months. He wants to interview 100 former Jehovah’s Witnesses and their families.
Phineas will be making a unique documentary that will allow former Jehovah’s Witnesses to tell their own personal stories. He’s investing his time and effort into exposing the real truth about the Watchtower Society and its treatment and effects on families and individuals.
He will be traveling from his home in Massachusetts down the Atlantic seaboard to New York, south to Georgia, and maybe as far west as Tennessee and Ohio. Although he knows that there are many former and current Jehovah’s Witnesses living in other states who would love to tell their personal stories, for now he will have to limit his travels only to the eastern states.
For the moment, Mr. Treptow will have to limit his outreach to the east coast states because he doesn’t have the time or funds necessary to travel the rest of the country.
He hopes that his documentary will inspire additional former Jehovah’s Witnesses to step forward and speak out about how the abusive nature of the Watchtower organization has changed their lives.
“V” – well-known for his excellent videos found on YouTube.com and other popular websites (including this one), will be contributing his time and considerable talents to edit the video.
The final film will eventually be put online for anyone to watch free of charge.
By Terry Walstrom
The death of Ray Franz hit me harder than I would have thought.
I had to reflect for awhile…alone…and quietly.
After all, fine people die every day and some of them are indispensable, and yet we go on…don’t we?
But, Ray Franz was someone who can only be described by the phrase “sui generis” (one of a kind).
My task was to ask myself what it was that made Ray so singular, potent, and admirable – without a trace of scandal or ill will attached to his memory.
Now, I’m ready to talk about it. Call it “venting,” if you like. Or – “processing”…
Dedicating yourself to the finest work on Earth is noble. Ray, like the rest of us, signed on – by putting his energy and intelligence into his teaching work, no matter what the personal cost to himself.
It was in the course of research that something special in Ray’s character triggered a chain reaction.
Living down here in the backwoods of Alabama, we were privy to very little of what was going on in the Watchtower world. Most of us never heard about the shake-up at headquarters during the 1980s. I read and dismissed the Time article about Ray Franz, although I heard and dismissed whispers from one local elder about “certain apostate happenings up there in Gadsden.”
I knew that he was a nephew of Fred Franz. One time I went up to Tuscaloosa to hear Ray speak, and I knew that a lot of Jehovah’s Witnesses thought the world of that uncle of his. What I didn’t know at the time was the extent to which Fred Franz had promoted 1975 as “the end of a system of things.” [watch video at end of article] Fred was also instrumental in driving his nephew out of the Watchtower Society’s headquarters.
I learned all of that from reading Ray’s book, Crisis of Conscience. I also learned about the Malawi/Mexico conundrum, the alternative military service fiasco, and the non-allowable bedroom intimacies debacle.
A video tribute to Raymond Franz…
A fine and fitting tribute to Ray Franz made by “V” with the help of many people who took the time to record a brief message about what Ray Franz meant to them.