ARCHIVES: Bomb threat from a Baptist pastor


Pastor who protested at SBC arrested for bomb threat
By Dan Martin

ATLANTA (BP)–A Georgia pastor underwent psychiatric observation after charges of “making a terrorist threat and acts” were filed against him here.

Herschel Arnold Markham, 42, pastor of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church in Fairburn, Ga. was arrested in downtown Atlanta about 5:45 a. m., Friday (June 18) after holding police and FBI agents at bay for more than an hour when he claimed to have a bomb in an attache case.

Markham also caused a stir at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in Norfolk, Va., Thursday (June 17) as he made a determined effort to have the convention hear him read from social studies curriculum materials for fourth and fifth graders now in use in public and private schools.

In Atlanta, Markham reportedly waved his arms and said, ‘I have in this briefcase a time bomb of information,'” police said.

Officials said he “raved incessantly about the world’s problems” as he waved the case.

Police quoted the pastor as saying; “Crime and violence are one of the bombs of the city.”

The officers said Markham spoke into the microphone of a cassette tape recorder as he stood on the downtown street. He was in front of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building, which is next door to a site where the old Georgia Baptist Convention building formerly stood. The convention offices are now in another part of the city.

One FBI agent squatted close to Markham and thumbed through a Bible as Markham spoke. When officers determined the case could not be detonated from the outside, they rushed the minister. It took six officers about two minutes to wrestle Markham to the ground. As he was subdued, Markham shouted, “It was a literary bomb in every school,” officers said.

As he was being led away, handcuffed, Markham shouted: “you made a fool of yourselves before God and the world.” Then he broke into a rendition of the” Doxology” and sang several other hymns, police said.

As he was put in the police car. He said “I’d like to get out of here by Sunday. We’re celebrating our 111th anniversary Sunday (at the Fairburn Church.”

Police took the case and suitcase to a special bomb trailer but said the “bomb” turned out to be “harmless papers.”

Markham’s bond was set at $1,000 and he was ordered to undergo psychiatric evaluation,

He was not with his church–about 25 miles south of Atlanta—on Sunday (June 20). A spokesperson at the church, where Markham has been pastor five years, told Baptist Press: “The church was shocked. We had a good service. It was homecoming day and it was planned far inadvance. Things were not normal, but we had a good service.”

She said Markham’s plight was not mentioned specifically except to tell the congregation that the pastor needed prayer.

“The church has mixed emotions about this,” she said. “Some think he’s sick but others think there may be other things involved. . . He’ s been in the fight over books … ”

Mrs. Markham, reportedly has said she attributed the incident to the fact her husband was exhausted, that he he’d been riding thE bus all night.

FBI agents confirmed that Markham arrived in Atlanta from Norfolk shortly before the incident.

At the convention, Markham set off a hostile debate over reports of the Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission (CLC) and the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs (BJCPA) on social studies curriculum called , “MACOS (Man: A Course of Study).”

Markham called the materials, “luciferian, satanic, devil-filled” and wanted to read sections to messengers.

At one point, he stood in the Norfolk Scope convention center, shouting in defiance at convention officers on the platform.

He finally was allowed to speak to messengers after President Jaroy Weber of Lubbock Tex., was voted down by messengers as he attempted to adjourn the session.

Markham’s objection was to a section of the CLC report on the materials in the 1975 convention. Messengers referred the MACOS materials to the CLC and BJCPA for study.

Staff members of both agencies studied the materials and recommended neither endorsement nor condemnation. Markham accused the agencies of not fulfilling their assignments and of “speaking with a forked tongue.”

At one point in his attack, Markham threated to sue the Convention if he were not allowed to speak further.

He told a reporter he would take the matter all too way to the Supreme Court, if necessary.

Another reporter questioned him, but Markham said he would divulge no further details and to “talk to my attorney.” He refused, however, to reveal his lawyer’s name.

Messengers heard Markham for several minutes before a Cincinnati, Ohio, pastor, Johnny Tallent moved the CLC report be adopted, saying Markham had been given sufficient time to make his case but had failed to do so.

The motion passed overwhelmingly.

As the session adjourned, Markham patted Weber on the arm and said: “I love you brother.”


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