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William Aberhart

1878-1943. Baptist lay preacher and politician. Born in Ontario, he graduated from Queen's University in 1906 and as a young schoolteacher migrated to Calgary in 1910. From 1915 to 1935 he was principal of Crescent Heights High School. He was a lay preacher and in 1918 began a Bible class in Westbourne Baptist Church, soon outgrowing the building. After a period in downtown theaters, the Bible class developed into the Prophetic Bible Institute. This was the period of the modernist-fundamentalist controversy, and Aberhart's preaching of the Gospel, with a strong premillennial emphasis, drew a large following. Realizing the potential of radio, he began broadcasting in 1925 and soon was on the air several hours each Sunday. By the mid-thirties, radio evangelism had resulted in a movement of near-revival in parts of Alberta and western Saskatchewan, bringing an unparalleled proliferation of Bible institutes and an army of volunteers for overseas missions. As the worldwide economic depression of the 1930s settled upon the Canadian prairies, with the concomitant of a ten-year drought, Aberhart came across the “social credit” theory. He began to weave this theme into his Sunday broadcasts, broadening his appeal to include the Mormons and many who had not been sympathetic with his theology. In 1935 his Social Credit Party won a landslide victory in the Alberta provincial election. Aberhart became premier, and Social Credit became an orthodox and conservative administration, with strong religious and evangelical overtones, all of which was carried on after Aberhart's death in 1943 by his outstanding pupil, E.C. Manning.*