O'Hair, Madalyn Murray
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Time Period
4/13/1919  - 9/29/1995
Fierce and outspoken, Madalyn Murray O’Hair (1919-1995) once described herself as the best-known atheist in the world. In 1963, she was part of a landmark Supreme Court case that ended Bible readings in public schools. That same year she founded American Atheists, which grew into one of the largest and most active atheist groups in the country.

Her campaigns to rid religious symbols from the public square were tireless -- if not always successful.

While these campaigns created enemies among offended Christians, her acerbic behavior earned her foes inside her movement as well. Some atheists suggested she did more harm than good for their cause.

In 1995, O’Hair and two family members mysteriously disappeared. Their remains were found nearly six years later on a remote Texas ranch (she had been dismembered). A former employee was convicted in the plot to kidnap and kill them.
Interactive Timeline(s)
Religious Minorities (Non-Christian)
Women and Religion
Browse Related Timeline Entries
Religious Minorities (Non-Christian) in American History
Women and Religion in American History
Secular Movement

Madalyn Murray O'Hair portrait, cropped- Flickr- photo by Alan Light (CC BY 2.0)
Book/Journal Source(s)
Melton, J. Gordon, 2009. Melton's Encyclopedia of American Religions, Eighth Edition. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale.
Web Source(s)
Beliefnet, "Who Was Madalyn Murray O'Hair?"
The New York Times, "Bodies Identified as Those of Missing Atheist and Kin" (March 16, 2001)
Web Page Contributor
Sandi Dolbee
Affliated with: Former Religion and Ethics Editor, The San Diego Union-Tribune

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