Tony Alamo was born Bernie Lazar Hoffmann on Sept. 20, 1934, in Joplin, Mo. His father was a dance instructor. Like father, like son. Alamo was very talented in music. When he was a teenager, Alamo left Joplin for the West Coast. He achieved some modicum of success as a "big band crooner" in Los Angeles. While working in the music industry, he claimed that he recorded a hit record single in the early 1960s, "Little Yankee Girl," and then he was asked to manage musical acts including the Beatles, the Doors, and the Rolling Stones. In 1966, after serving jail time for a weapons charge, Alamo married Edith Opal Horn from Alma, Ark., in Crawford County. Nine years his senior, Horn was a two-time divorcee who used to scam churches into believing she was a missionary in need of money. Some sources say they changed their names to Tony and Susan Alamo. According to Tony Alamo, while he was in a meeting at a Beverly Hills investment firm, Jesus came to him and told him to preach the second coming of Christ. Afterward, he and Susan converted to Christianity and began a Hollywood street ministry, passing out religious tracts and preaching especially to drug addicts, alcoholics and prostitutes.
In the mid-1970s, they moved the ministry to western Arkansas, where Susan Alamo had grown up. They purchased land and built a 13,064-square-foot mansion where the Alamos lived. Finally, Alamo became a millionaire by accumulating wealth by unfair and illegal means. After Susan Alamo died of cancer in 1982, Tony Alamo kept her embalmed body in the mansion, telling his followers that she would rise from the dead. After about six months, he was finally convinced to entomb her body in a mausoleum. In the 1990s, Tony Alamo did prison time for tax evasion. After being released in 1998, he set up the-smaller Tony Alamo Ministries in Fouke (Miller County) with branches in Fort Smith and Los Angeles. On Sept. 20, 2008, state and federal officials raided Alamo's Fouke compound as part of a two-year investigation into allegations of child abuse and child pornography. Alamo was arrested in Flagstaff, Ariz., five days later on a warrant charging him with violating the Mann Act, a federal statute enacted to stop the trafficking of women or girls across state lines. At the end of a trial that included several women testifying that they had been sexually abused by Alamo, some having been forced to become his "wives," Alamo was found guilty July 24, 2009, on 10 counts of taking underage girls across state lines for sex. On Nov. 13, 2009, he was sentenced to 175 years in prison and fined $250,000. On Dec. 2, 2010, the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld his conviction and sentence.
Tony Alamo left the federal courthouse in Texarkana
In February 2014, a Miller County judge—in the largest personal-injury judgment in Arkansas history—awarded $525 million in actual and punitive damages to seven former members of Tony Alamo Christian Ministries. After the death of Cult leader Tony Alamo, ex-members of ministry expressed their feelings of freedom and relief. Ann, who's 82 and a former Alamo follower said "What a relief for a lot of people, a lot of people who grew up in there and were dealing with the abuse."