Arrested Preacher's Ex-Followers Speak Out

Former followers said Alamo used to preach fundamentalist sermons about the return of Jesus, urged his followers not to use birth control, and railed against the Vatican.

"I'm embarrassed now to think about it, but he somehow convinced us that he was a prophet of God and we had to obey him," said a former sect member.

The ex-devotee says that followers were urged to work long hours and then turn all their money over to the ministry, including children who were kept out of school and forced to help sew rhinestones into the famed Alamo jackets.

While Alamo had a charismatic presence and attracted Clinton, Dolly Parton, Ronnie Milsap and other country stars to his restaurant in Alma, Ark., his followers saw a different side to the man.

"For us, he was a cruel taskmaster," the former member explained. "He could kick you out in a heartbeat. We didn't own anything, and he could take your house away. That's how powerful he was."

Despite legal problems ranging from tax troubles to labor-law violations, Alamo expanded his empire, setting up several churches and owning 30 businesses -- from a hog farm and supermarket to a restaurant and banquet room -- in Alma, where Clinton remembers seeing Dolly Parton perform, according to his autobiography, "My Life."

Secretive Ministry Raided

When Susan Alamo died of cancer in 1982, he became convinced that she was an immortal prophet who would rise from the dead as a witness of the Book of Revelation. Rather than bury her body, Alamo embalmed it and set it up in a crystal casket on his dining room table, commanding his followers to pray in two-hour shifts around the clock.

Since his release from prison in 1998, Alamo relocated his main ministry to Fouke, a town with 800 residents, where his armed security guards have butted heads with local law enforcement.

"They've always had armed guards stopping people on a public road and telling them they could not come up on the property," said Mayor Terry Purvis.

"It's a secretive culture -- they've got some trailer homes and a few duplexes up there where their members stay and live," he said. "I've had several ex-followers call me up with allegations about polygamy and underage marriage."

Purvis, who witnessed the raid, was thankful that it went smoothly and that federal agents did not encounter resistance.

"They didn't tell me much, just that they were serving a search warrant that pertained to child pornography and child abuse," he said. "I'm just glad that there was no resistance. My biggest fear was a Waco situation."

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