Monday, May 31, 2021

Quasi-Wikipedia: Ralph Gordon Stair has Died, Blowing a Hole in Domestic Shortwave Radio

Noted rambly coot and "Last Day Prophet of God" Ralph Gordon Stair died at the beginning of April. For those blessedly ignorant, "Brother Stair" (b. 1933) had been running a compound ("The Overcomers Ministry") down in Canadys, South Carolina since 1978, when the proto-compoundees were living out of a purchased hotel in Walterboro, SC; sometime in the early 1980s they moved to their compound space ten miles away, off the two-lane Augusta Highway, on a plot of land that is shielded from roadside view by tall trees. All the money is held collectively and all the men work on a farm plot behind the compound (the women do traditional "women's work") and like most of the religious cults in America, there have been repeated accusations of sexual abuse by female ex-members towards R.G. Stair, and he was arrested in 2017 over those. Stair was going to go to trial over the accusations when he died either on April 3rd or 4th. Ralph Stair was no product of the counterculture; he claimed to have started preaching before the age of 20 (i.e., right after World War II), was ordained a Methodist minister, then dropped organized religion, and moved to the South in the 1950s because he thought it was the best place for Christians to survive the "end times." The Southern Poverty Law Center labeled Stair a homophobe when he was arrested in 2017. I can find little information online of his time between the 1950s and the late 1970s (allegedly he was kicked out a preaching job or two for sexual issues), but by the 1980s he was on the air, and that's where my interest lies.

The Overcomers Ministry has grown from buying airtime on local AM or FM radio stations to owning the former Radio Bulgaria shortwave transmitter, buying huge chunks of time on World Wide Christian Radio (their fourth transmitter only runs Stair), Radio Miami International (WRMI), and Alan Weiner's WBCQ which are all multi-kilowatt shortwave radio stations. Besides the shortwave stations and a smattering of AM/FM stations, they stream online, do satellite TV, and even have a phone number you can call to listen to Stair. Stair had been making endless predictions of earth-shattering things going on for 35+ years, and none of them have come true except posssibly for his last prediction, which was that Christ would return before November of this year, which means that the Overcomers have paid up to October....what happens after that is unknown. Sometime in the last couple of months WINB (a private religious shortwave station that has been around since the early 1960s) dumped Stair, but the records are still there on the site. Personally it's been bizarre listening to 49 meters (5900 kHz to 6200 kHz) and hearing Star competing against himself on WWCR and WRMI, many times with the same recording! It's odder still when you realize that Stair is on the same shortwave outlet as Dr. Gene Scott and so it's two dead guys ranting about God, and WWCR has granted them separate transmitters to ramble on. There needs to be a documentary made on Stair and his chokehold on American shortwave and his crazy compound and how he got away with it. Finally, Wikipedia was dead wrong about who was broadcasting R.G. Stair after 2018; except for WINB, all of his old affiliates kept playing those CDs.

Above: Allan Weiner and his wife Angela announcing the death of Stair. Back in 2017 Weiner defended Stair on his Allan Weiner Worldwide show after Stair was arrested.

Above: This bizarre recording allegedly went out over the air on October 27, 2018; Stair is yelling at "Sister Andrea" and she brings up the women he assaulted and it gets worse. He seemed to be kicking people out during the last three years, he tells her to leave.

Above: Off-air recording from WRMI on Christmas Day in 2016. WRMI no longer transmits on that frequency. Stair ranting about Trump, Christmas, etc.

Above: Raw footage of Stair's 2002 arrest for sex charges. He served 77 days and that was it. The MicroCults YouTube channel has a number of Stair videos, including some badly-transferred footage of local TV news stations from 1988 reporting how people from as far away as Pennsylvania were dropping out of their lives to go to Stair's compound; the Overcomers were working with Anthony Marcolongo's "Church of Our First Love" to collect them in Philadelphia and shuttle them to South Carolina. Marcolongo's church collapsed in the early 1990s and he died in a car crash in 1992.

Raw short clips of Stair ranting about WBCQ running a rock show (Rabishu Xul?) right after his, exiling members off the compound, a teenaged girl describing Stair repeatedly molesting her: Brother Stair Watch on Soundcloud. No dates as to when they were recorded, but it's all very crisp.

For those asking "where did the money come from for all the airtime?", we don't know. Rapper Craig Mack was only involved with the church commune from 2012 to his death from heart failure in 2018.