Tammy Faye Messner Dies After Long Cancer Battle

By now I’m sure you know that Tammy Faye Messner died on Friday following a raw, emotional appearance the night before on Larry King Live. She was 65. Tammy Faye had been battling cancer since 1996. She announced that she had decided to discontinue treatments for it in May.

Messner, who stood out on Christian television in the 80’s for reaching out to gay men afflicted with AIDS at a time when Ronald Reagan refused to even mention the disease, said: “I refuse to label people. We’re all just people made out of the same old dirt, and God didn’t make any junk.”

Her son, Jay Bakker, posted this message on his website over the weekend: “After fighting cancer for eleven years, my mother passed away on July 20 at 4AM. She had a very peaceful death and is no longer in pain. To grant her wish she was cremated today and her ashes were buried at a private ceremony. The service was performed by my good friend Randy McCain of Open Door Community Church in Sherwood, AR. Thank you to everyone for their prayers and support over the years – it has helped me more than you will ever know. Please continue to pray for her husband Roe as well as the rest of my family. A public ceremony is currently being planned – an update will be sent once the details are finalized along with where to send flowers. I ask that all press would please allow me to grieve privately at this time. Thank you.”

Tammy Faye Bakker, 65, Emotive Evangelist, Dies [nyt]


  1. GIOVANNI says

    “The service was performed by my good friend Randy McCain of Open Door Community Church in Sherwood, AR”

    What a lovely and powerful final statement for Tammy Faye to make – a beautiful spirit to the very end. Open doors indeed!

  2. Jonathon says

    May she rest in peace. She was a very controversial person at one point in her life, but she won my respect in the end. I know that she suffered greatly and am relieved that she is no longer in pain. She will definitely be remembered.

  3. dan says

    i know i’ll probly get blasted for this, but when did tammy faye become so popular with the gays? she used to be on object of derision because of her tacky clothes, hair and insane makeup, and all that crazy crying. gay guys used to rip her like crazy. was it that show she did with that weird tweeker bullock, or was it that documentarty the gay guys did? just curious when she became popular with ‘mos?

  4. Chad says

    I really didn’t know why Tammy Faye was so popular with the gay community until I watched this Tribute video. She had so much to teach – from strength though adversity to unconditional love for your fellow humans. The majority of the religious community seems to forget the command to not judge others, but Tammy Faye not only did not judge, she supported. The gay community has lost a friend.

  5. Rey says

    Dan, I can just suggest that you rent the documentary, _The Eyes of Tammy Faye_, narrated by RuPaul.

  6. anon says

    Dan it was during the beggining of the AIDS holocaust.

    When President Reagan wouldn’t even aknowledge that it existed and the bible beaters said it was their deity’s wrath and judgement poured out on those that they said deserved it.

    Tammy was one of the first and only non gay voices and the ONLY preacher’s voice that spoke up for the gay community and those being ravaged by AIDS. She was very vocal about not judging people and loving them no matter what. That christians should be at the forefront of comforting and he;lping AIDS sufferers.

    That was what started the love affair by the community.

    Toss in the larger than life personality and the drama of her soap opera esque problems and well, you get the flawed diva that many idolize

  7. dan says

    hey rey — thanks. i might have to do that. i grew up a little south of PTL, and so my viewpoint of the bakkers was similar to a most people’s in the region…that they were money grubbing cultists…but its always interesting to see the journey people take from a real low point like that. thanks for the heads up.

  8. anon says


    How many noticed the other nigt that when asked on Larry King why the gay community loved her so much, that she gave a very humble answer.

    Instead of explaining why the community loves her she talked about why she loves the community. She basicaly said the gays stood by her through her troubles and something along the line of you have love them for that. Instead of tooting her own horn she tooted our’s the gay community that stood by her through the scandals.

  9. gordo says

    Ever time I bring this up I’m accused of “revelling in her death” – which I’m not, I’m sorry she died as I would be for anyone – but she and her husband and their organization stole hundreds of millions of dollars from people whose lives were made much more difficult because of it. She may have said to support PWAs but at the same time she was taking checks from them. She still stated that she forgave gays for being gay and it’s not cynical to say that she knew how to keep her audience happy because she absolutely had to have one.

    There are many many other people whose loss is more worth mourning

  10. Zeke says

    Rest in Peace my dear Sister Tammy-Faye.

    Through your words and actions you demonstrated a Christian faith that exemplified the love of God without the guilt of religion.

    You touched my heart with your unconditional love and compassion when many in the Christian faith seemed only to hate, fear and condemn. I’m only sorry that some are unable or unwilling to show you and your family the same love and compassion in return.

    You will be missed and you will be remembered fondly.

    My thoughts and prayers go out to Ro, Jay (who will continue your legacy), Tammy Sue and the rest of your family and friends.

  11. Cory says

    I literally have tears in my eyes while I type this. So tragic. I’m not sure of the specifics on her and her exes empire, from what I understand it was Jim Baker who was pulling the strings while Tammy was (mostly) naive to it all. Her heart was in a good place. May she rest in peace.

  12. mark m says

    Thank you Zeke, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

    Tammy was like all of us in that she made mistakes and had to deal with the consequences. Unlike all of us, she was an incredibly warm and accepting soul and had a positive spirit I’ve rarely seen in anyone, celebrity or not.

    I put aside my judgments of her when I realized what kind of person she truly was. It’s nice to know that most Towleroad readers feel the same. And it’s a shame that some do not.

    Forgiveness and acceptance are two things I would think a gay man would know something about.

  13. Jordan says

    She seems a much more worthy person of respect and mourning than someone like Jerry Falwell or really anyone else you can name or think of in organized religion today.

    She more than any of the others personified what the true qualities of a Christian must really be like.

    Rest in peace dear Tammy.

  14. peterparker says


    Tammy Faye Bakker was never indicted nor tried for any crime. It was her husband at the time, Jim Bakker, who was indicted and tried for fraud, racketeering and tax evasion at PTL. At trial it was disclosed that Jim Bakker made all financial decisions at PTL. It is likely that Tammy Faye Bakker either never knew about the fraud her husband was perpetuating or at the very least she was unaware of the extent of the fraud.

    It is worth noting that Jim Bakker’s prosecution for fraud and racketeering came about because of a technicality: PTL was organized as a non-profit…had they been operating as a for-profit corporation Bakker would have only been accused of simple mismanagement (which would not have been prosecutable) and tax evasion. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not excusing Jim Bakker. I think he is scum. But I don’t think Tammy Faye Bakker knew the inner workings of the financial side of PTL.


  15. yoshi says


    As televangelists, Jim and Tammy willfully defrauded millions of people of their money on a daily basis and as businesspeople, screwed over their investors in several schemes (technicality? give me a break). Considering that Tammi married another fraud I have a hard time believing “she knew nothing about it”. But there are other reasons not to cry over Tammy’s death. She was partially responsible for the creation of the right wing media empire (700 club among them) and show effectively how it could be used. The fact that she may be “nice” to us doesn’t nearly make up for the damage she is at least partially responsible for. I say good riddance.

  16. dan says

    hey — further to my earlier question, i was just listening to an archived interview with tammy faye from 2004 on fresh air, and terry gross asked her how she felt about the way christian ministers usually talked about gay people. she answered that preachers should be able to preach the word of god, but she didn’t feel it was right to focus on someone’s sin. she went on to say that even though she loved gay people, she and the gay community “had agreed to disagree. they know i’m a christian, and that i disagree with the gay lifestyle, but we love each other anyway…”
    this doesn’t quite jibe with the outpouring above, so again, i’m wondering, if she thought homosexuality was a sin, and that the gay lifestyle was wrong, how does that make her different from other people i see getting blasted on here all the time?

  17. peterparker says


    i used the word ‘technicality’ because it is my understanding that it *was* a legal technicality that allowed prosecutors to go after jim bakker for fraud and racketeering. my understanding of what i have read is that had PTL been organized as a privately held company, prosecutors would not have been able to indict him for fraud/racketeering because of legal technicalities associate with privately held corporations. i’m not saying that jim bakker wasn’t corrupt nor am i saying that he did not swindle money from people. i am speaking purely from a legal standpoint as i understand it (and no, i am NOT an attorney).


  18. Timothy says

    I do think it is interesting that the preacher who officiated at the family’s private service is openly gay.

    Also, I believe that Tammy Faye’s attitudes about gay people evolved over time. It was just a few years ago that her son Jay did his study of scripture and began to believe that the church had it wrong. When he changed his message, it nearly cost him his church. I think that if Tammy really wasn’t a supporter of our community and saw us as sinners, then the family wouldn’t have had McCain officiate.

  19. lou says

    Tammy Faye was still like other Televangelists: she condemned non-christians to hell. The “love” of jesus would send non-believers to burn in hell.

    Let’s not pretend she ‘s a saint, she’d likely toss a heathen in hell for not believing in her god.

    There’s no love there, only a lot of hate.

  20. dbbrit says

    Those of you condemning Tammy Faye should be ashamed of yourselves. She proved after the PTL mess that she was not a hypocrit, and was indeed a good person of strong faith. She had an open mind, and a good heart. There should be more out there like her.