PART TWO OF FOUR: REPAIRING THE REPUTATION OF A.A. ALLEN
[To read Part 1, click here.]
Before we examine the events of October 1955 in Knoxville, I feel I should explain the tone of these articles. Even in the study of secular history, we should seek to understand the causes and effects of choices, and hopefully, choose wisely in our own time because of them. When the threads of history lead directly to us, it is hard not to take our ancestors’ choices personally. We rejoice in their triumphs, lament their failures, and can almost feel their wounds. It should be even more personal when studying revival history. Not one negative comment is ever made about Daniel in the Bible. Yet when he interceded for his people as recorded in Daniel 9:16, he said,
“Oh Lord, according to all Your righteousness, I pray, let Your anger and Your fury be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people are a reproach to all those around us.”
The Lord watches our history as well. He takes a personal interest in it, and believe it or not, His choices are affected as well.
Though the Lord is omniscient, there is a mystery here. Many of us would assume things change because of wickedness, and this is true. He said to Eli, the high priest who would not disciple his sons, in 1 Samuel 2:30, “Therefore the Lord God of Israel says: ‘I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.’ But now the Lord says: ‘Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.”
But—praise the Lord!—the Lord’s choices change for righteousness and loyal hearts as well. “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9a)
So, in these articles, I publish the names of denominations and the names of individuals, as they are relevant. Some have done great things, while others, as you will read about here, have wounded the heart of God terribly. I am not singling them out as if their descendants deserve to be punished. The opposite is true. Regardless of denomination, or my own opinion of any individuals, when I see how some Christian leaders of this area made decisions that affected the entire region, I take their decisions personally and ask the question, “Has anyone ever made this right with God, as Daniel did?”
So, walk with me back to Knoxville in October 1955. The Latter Rain Movement was sweeping the nation and a healing evangelist named A. A. Allen traveled to Knoxville to hold a healing meeting in a large auditorium on Columbia Avenue, near N. Central Avenue (a building which no longer exists).
Allen was ordained with the Assemblies of God denomination. However, he was an enigma to them. His meetings were powerful, and the Lord healed many, but Allen would not kowtow to the local church political machine. First, he would not segregate his meetings, like they wanted him to do. (Note: This was the South, and Jim Crow laws were still in affect). At an A.A. Allen meeting, all who wanted to connect with God and receive healing could come regardless of skin color, and they could sit anywhere they chose. Allen himself was half-Cherokee, and his long-time bandleader, Gene Martin, was an African-American singer who also served as choir leader. The second contention was Allen’s venues. The local church leaders wanted Allen to hold his meetings in one of their churches so they could get more money from the offerings that were collected. But he refused for both moral and practical reasons. Not only could he see their greed, but his meetings drew far too many people to fit in any church building at the time. Since Allen refused to bow to any of these demands, the leaders decided if they could not “rule” him, they would ruin him.
Many know that Allen was arrested for drunk driving in Knoxville on October 21, 1955. If not that, we have been taught to dismiss him, and all God did through him by the rumors spread from the arrest. Maybe you have heard that he died of an alcoholic binge in a room full of liquor bottles. Or perhaps you know about the coroner’s report which stated his liver showed signs of a lifetime of alcoholism. However, what many are not aware of… is that all these stories came from a conspiracy against him.
Several years ago, Lionheart Restoration Ministries felt led by the Lord to investigate these reports since they happened in our own “backyard”, so to speak. Mike McClung and several others researched Allen and this incident thoroughly—speaking with family members, accessing original documents, etc. The following account of what happened to Allen can be verified by at least three eyewitnesses of the night of the DUI arrest, certified coroner’s reports, and numerous character witnesses of Allen’s Christ-likeness on and off the ministry stage.
On the night of October 21st, A.A. Allen, and two of his ministry associates, Kent Rogers, and RW Schambach, were all driving to the evening meeting. Since Allen did not eat before his evening meetings, they stopped at a local café to get some milk. As they got back in the car, Allen said there must have been something wrong with the milk he drank because he felt funny and nauseous. He was driving, so he pulled over at the next block to let someone else drive. There waiting for him was a police patrol car, reporters from the local press, and the local Assemblies of God leaders. They arrested and charged him with a DUI, all while the reporters took notes. Allen and his friends felt the goal of the plot against him was to stop the meeting that night, so they just paid the fine without contesting the charge and went on to the meeting. The next day, the newspapers tore Allen’s reputation to shreds.
The details of this conspiracy have been verified by Allen’s fellow ministers, Rogers and Schambach, but also by one of the arresting officers at the scene. And strangely enough, that account comes by way of another local Assemblies of God pastor. Pastor Wayne Simmons founded Praise Temple Assembly of God in Alcoa, TN in 1978 and led it until his retirement in 2012 due to failing health. Pastor Simmons was familiar with A.A Allen, but not because of the 1955 incident. As a young minister-in-training, he traveled with Allen for a time in the 1960s. Several years later, about 1980, Praise Temple received a call about a man dying of cancer. It was a request for a pastor to come and hear a confession. The dying man was one of the police officers who had arrested Allen that night in Knoxville. He said, “I’ve got to get this off my chest before I die. I helped to destroy a good man. We set up A.A. Allen to ruin his reputation. The other church leaders had us do it. We had the café spike his milk, and we planted the bottles of alcohol in his car that night.”
As incredible as that may sound, it does not resolve everything. Some might wonder, “What about the coroner’s report? If not that one night, surely he was drinking excessively anyway for his liver to fail at age 59.” I can only tell you… there were two coroner’s reports. Lionheart obtained certified copies of both. The first report said his cause of death was a heart attack, and his liver was perfectly normal for a man his age. The second listed his cause of death as “liver failure” brought on by “acute alcoholism.” It mentioned a blood alcohol content of .36%, and that his body was found in a room full of empty liquor bottles. A week after the second report was issued, the coroner who wrote both reports sent a check for $10,000 to Allen’s ministry with a note apologizing for reporting a false accusation about the man of God. Soon after, the coroner hung himself.
Perhaps now the truth about Allen is clear to those who have only heard the rumors. I hope it is also clear that though only a few specific leaders of our area rejected Allen, their attack was so effective it grew beyond one denomination, and one city, and turned our entire region against him. The Pharisees were able to do the same with the crowds in Jerusalem to convince them to call for Jesus to be crucified. However, in much the same way as the Pharisees, they also rejected the larger invitation of the Lord to the whole region. The Holy Spirit was inviting East TN to experience the Latter Rain Revival in our region through that one man and his tent meetings. As Jesus said, “He who receives the one I send, receives Me.” Those Christian leaders said no, and our region missed the “day of visitation” (Luke 19:41-44).
So now that we know the real history, and its impact, we must ask the question, “Has anyone ever made this right with God?”
The short answer is, “Yes”—praise the Lord! And that is what we will talk about in Part Three.