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IFB Preacher Mack Ford is Dead

mack ford new bethany home for girls
Abuser and molester Mack Ford is dead.

Repost from 2015-2016. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Notorious child abuser and molester, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher Mack Ford died February 11, 2015. Ford, for many years, operated New Bethany Home for Girls in Louisiana, along with group homes for boys in other states.  If you do not know anything about Ford, please read Sexual Abuse in the Name of God: New Bethany Home for Girls.

I have mixed feelings about the death of Ford. On one hand, I am glad the son of a bitch is dead. Others like him: Olen King, Ron Williams, and Jack Patterson, to name a few, are getting old, and death will soon come calling for them too. Lester Roloff,  the man who taught these abusers everything they know about establishing and operating IFB re-education camps, died in a plane crash in 1982. Death will someday come for all of these abusers and the world will be better off without them.

I feel sorry for the dear friends of mine who were abused by Mack Ford and the staff at New Bethany. Like hound dogs on the trail of a rabbit, they did all they could do to bring Mack Ford to justice. Now, he is beyond their reach. Like Bob Gray, a lifelong child molester and pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, Ford died before he could know what it was like to be locked up with no hope of escape. I want my friends to know that I appreciate their doggedness, their willingness to continue to go after those who abuse and molest in the name of God.

There is still much work to do. As long as there are unregulated, unlicensed Christian group homes open for business, we must continue to expose their evil work. We MUST convince state and federal legislators and regulators that these types of homes are dangerous, and are a threat to the safety and welfare of anyone sent to them. While no one would suggest that licensing and regulation is a cure-all, it is the first step in cleansing the land of abusive group homes. We can do better, and we must!

Rebecca Catalanello of the Times Picayune had this to say:

The man who founded New Bethany Home for Girls, where some former students said they were victims of abuse, has died.

Mack Ford, 82, was found dead inside his home shortly before 8 p.m. Wednesday (Feb. 11) by a relative, Bienville Parish Coroner Don Smith said.

Ford’s death appears to be from natural causes, but Smith said his office will be conducting an autopsy.

Ford, a high school dropout turned Independent Fundamentalist Baptist preacher, opened New Bethany in 1971 on a former penal farm turned convalescent home off Louisiana Highway 9 in Arcadia, La., about 50 miles east of Shreveport.

Over three decades until it closed its doors in 2001, New Bethany took in sometimes hundreds of girls a year, according to newspaper accounts and court documents. Ford marketed the school as a home for wayward youth — “a mission project to the incorrigible, unwanted rejects,” he told attorneys in 1997. “Destitute, lonely, prostitutes, drug addicts.”

But many of the former residents who found themselves behind the barbed wire gates of the compound have relayed — to police, media, social workers and others — stories of harsh, physical and mental abuse that included beatings, solitary confinement, and, more recently, sexual abuse…

…Simone Jones, 47, one of the women who said Ford molested her when she was a teenager, said that she learned of his death late Wednesday from Michael Epps, the Louisiana State Police investigator who spent a year looking into the sexual abuse allegations that he took to a grand jury.

“I’m angry,” Jones said. “No justice … There are hundreds of people who are never going to see any type of justice be done.”

Ford’s death comes four days after the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office began investigating whether there may be a connection between New Bethany and an unidentified woman who was found on Jan. 28, 1981, in a wooded area stabbed to death.

The woman, now known as “Bossier Doe,” was wearing shoes and socks not unlike those required of New Bethany residents at the time. A name, “D. Davies,” was written inside her shoes with marker, just as former residents say they had to do.

State officials attempted to close the school in 1980 after Ford refused state inspection. They later raided New Bethany in 1988 and again in 1996 following complaints of abuse at the home — efforts that Ford fought in court, maintaining the state was violating his civil rights because it opposed his fundamentalist Christian views.

“The bureaucrats don’t want us to teach them our faith,” he said in a 1988 sermon following the state’s removal of 28 residents from the home.

But neither he nor anyone else at the girls’ home was ever prosecuted for any of the reported abuse, despite numerous confirmed reports documented by state social workers.

In addition to the girls’ home, Ford opened several boys homes, including in Longstreet, La., and Waltersboro, SC. In both of those locations, abuse allegations resulted in criminal charges, though not against Ford.

In 1981, Longstreet school manager L.D. Rapier was arrested and charged with cruelty to children after four boys ran from the home and told authorities they’d been beaten. The charges were eventually dropped.

In 1983, South Carolina authorities closed the Waltersboro home after they found a 14-year-old sleeping in a windowless padlocked cell, where he had been for several days. Two employees there were charged with unlawful neglect of a child and kidnapping, and they eventually pleaded to a lesser charge of false imprisonment.

Ford continued to live at the former New Bethany compound, located at 120 Hiser Road, in Arcadia, until his death…

…Ford’s estranged son-in-law, former Louisiana College vice president Timothy Johnson, said that Ford’s wife, Thelma Ford, resides in a nursing home.

Thelma and Mack Ford would have been married 66 years this year, according to court documents. Together, they had seven daughters, and adopted two more children, a boy and a girl.

Johnson said that Ford’s family members are unlikely to speak publicly about Ford or his legacy largely because of the great backlash they may face by former New Bethany residents and other critics.

“To do so gets you written about as being complicit or protecting a rapist,” Johnson wrote in an email message…

…Teresa Frye, 47, a resident at the home in 1982, said she was still processing news of Ford’s death on Thursday morning.

For years, Frye has been involved in an ongoing effort to help reconnect former New Bethany students and to raise awareness about the conditions so many children faced in similar boarding homes.

“I’m numb,” Frye said. “But I’m starting to get angry.”


Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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    This is welcome news. The fact that he was alone is great. I hope he was in severe pain and terrified, and that he suffered a long time. Alone. In pain. Terrified. That is what I hope.

    Now, usually when a person such as this dies, I am a bit celebratory. Not so today. Today I am sort of numb. Sick. And sad.
    This puzzles me.

    This man wreaked havoc on so many lives. Under his tutelage, others also perpetrated crimes and horrors on vulnerable youngsters, with many still doing so. He was a sexual predator. He hurt so many.
    He also preyed on the gullible and trusting. He made his living off the sorrow of others, parading his charges out to beg for pity and money from the “godly” in churches and towns across this country.

    He used brainwashing techniques, fear, and torture to break down children. He was a cult leader. There are many who still believe the treatment they endured was good for them. I shudder when I recall reminding a woman of a particular beating she received and she said it wasn’t so bad. When I suggested that she wouldn’t want her on child treated so, she quickly declared she’d never allow anyone to do that to her child. HELLO!

    It depresses me that there are so many places that, today, people are enduring a living hell, and the authorities look the other way.

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      Tonight I celebrate! Yes celebrate. Why? Not because I wished death upon this man even though he deserved it. But because there are those who are so far caught up in fear of him that they still refuse to publicly speak of what he did to them. Scared that somehow he will manage to get them for speaking out. Tonight they no longer have to live in fear of this man. They didn’t need to for many years. But their minds could never come to grips enough to realize that. Tonight freedom from his terror is finally theirs if they choose to reach out and grab it. I too once lived in fear of someone, someone who worked for this man. I too know what it’s like to not be able to come to grips with reality and realize that I’am safe from them. But I was blessed and I eventually learned that on my own without having to wait for their passing. So for those who are still waiting I celebrate. Tonight can be their first day of freedom!

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        This is so true. In fact, I had a conversation with a young man last evening that told me he was no longer afraid, because Ford was so influential and powerful. He said that without Ford’s influence, the others could only twist in the wind.


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      Same here. That is so wild but I knew when I got a text asking if hubby was awake, First thought that flitted through my head, “Mack Ford is dead.”
      I instantly knew and went into our houseguest’s room, and sure enough, she said, “He’s dead.”

      I thought, “Ding Dong the Wicked Bitch is Dead.” I started singing as soon as I knew they were okay.

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    U guys are crazy! I went to this school and all he did was teach fucked up kids how to act right. Take a look around at society… Its out of control…. Wake up!!!!!

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      Jo Wright

      Kelli, please speak for yourself. I had never been in any sort of trouble in my life before New Bethany. New Bethany wasn’t the worst experience of my young life, but it rates in the top five.

      A straight A student, no drugs, no sex, church at least three times per week (no time to get in trouble), after Mack Ford raped me, I never could find the pieces of me he stole.

      My three adult children are living productive, enjoyable lives. Two are in the rain forest of Costa Rica today, on their own dimes. You might be out of control, but I am doing quite well; especially, considering the last 17 months.

      Is your life all straightened out now? When you left New Bethany, was everything all better?

      Mack Ford raped me in 1977 and sexually abused me for a year before the rape.

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        So your parents sent you to New Bethany for no reason ? Well I was there and he never showed any signs of being like that with any girl and I never heard anything from anyone. I have seen some of the people who have made some of these claims and I wouldn’t believe anything they said. Not to be rude, but they seem somewhat trashy. Ummm.. Your kids should be paying for themselves. They’re adults! Hello!

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          Bruce Gerencser

          When someone says I don’t mean to be rude, it means they are fixing to be rude and that’s exactly what you have done with your comment.

          What years were you at New Bethany?

          Are you willing to give your name?

          You do understand that two people could have different experiences at New Bethany? It’s possible for conflicting stories to be true.

          Are you saying that all of these women are lying? Are you saying all of them are trashy? Can’t trashy women be abused, molested, or raped? Are there certain socioeconomic levels under which one falls that they are no longer worthy of attention and being believed?

          BTW, many of these women are my friends. They are honest, decent, hardworking people who tell the truth. Some of them, BTW, might take the trashy label as a badge of honor.

          So, please answer my questions. If you are unwilling to do so, your silence speaks for itself.

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          My parents did not send me to NB. I wanted to go there. I thought it was a safe place. My parents LET me go to NB for a visit. I begged to go back to NB and they relented.

          Better Question? Why would I think NB was better than home? No one hit me at NB.

          My kids are grown and “on their own dime” means they are paying their way. HELLO.

          Is your logic that anyone you deem “trashy” is a liar or deserves to be raped?

          When were you at NB? I doubt you were there and Kelli is not your name! Silly little troll; otherwise, I hope Bruce tosses your bullshit!

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      To be sure, some kids who were at New Bethany may have been “fucked up” and needed to learn how to act. With the strict and rigid incarceration, this was often accomplished. Look beneath the surface, and you will see so much more. When I was there in 1974, there were girls there who wanted an education at a Christian girls’ boarding school. What a surprise when they found out what was really going on. It was not rosy and good, but oppressive and punitive. Girls were duped into coming for the Christian experience. Just like Jo is speaking about.

      The “changing the wayward into stewards for Christ” schtick was the selling point to keep donations flowing in. Since you were there, you know the punishments that were meted out. Do you agree with beatings? Do you agree with whippings with a belt? This was done to anyone stepping out of line, as you know.

      Now, I ask you this… did you ever see Mac Ford and Thelma reviewing their finances and paying bills? Did you? I know you did not. There are things done in private and things in public. Do you actually believe that you would have seen, right out in the open, Mac Ford molesting girls in his charge? Really?

      And now, we come to the abuses done by not only Mac Ford, but those under his employ. He oversaw the abuse of thousands of boys and girls, and this is why so many are now glad he is dead.
      If you cannot understand that, if you don’t believe it was possible for someone to have a different experience than you, then perhaps you need some classes in logic and reason.

      Oh, and calling people “trashy” is really making you look bad.

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    Kelli is a brainwashed troll. How many times have we seen those like her? If she is even remotely real, and basing her statement on what her clouded, cowardly little brain will allow, then what she DOESN’T know could fill a set of encyclopedias.

    If she has even a crumb of common sense left rattling around in her Mack Ford saturated brain, which I doubt, she may come to the realization of how little she knows. Like so many others, her poor weak brain soaked all the Ford/IFB/dogma like a sponge. Nobody can wring her gray matter out but her. It will be her choice to make as to whether or not she wants to continue being one of their little puppets.

    Kelli, I challenge you to watch a recently released documentary about some crucial testimony that was given under oath, and some that the DA’s office and La. State Police willfully ignored, during a recent grand jury proceeding in Bienville Parish by sexual abuse victims of Mack Ford’s.

    And there re more installments coming. This is just getting started. Think about what the things you’re saying make you look like. A blubbering FOOL.

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    If I was investigating the alleged crime I would look at a common thread among the alleged victims. Assuming he did it, he was smart enough to get away with it by carefully selecting victims that would be unwilling or unable to rat him out.

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      Jo Wright

      He’s dead. The investigation into Ford’s actions are moot.
      There are more pedophiles, male and female, who have not had justice served.
      I have often wondered what was similar in all Ford’s victims and what I have seen among the ones I know:

      Long hair
      No makeup
      Looked young but not child-like
      All I know had entrusted secrets from home-life,
      Had been sexually abused prior to NB.

      I can’t say that he had a type but Ford knew how to choose his victims. He knew that we knew to keep secrets. He was a predator and he acted like we were his prey.

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    Tara Cummings

    First of all- thank you, Bruce, specifically for your support of victims of Mack Ford and other IFB leaders via this blog and elsewhere. Your public support helps us extend the reach of the effort and the fact of your history gives a unique perspective and authority. On behalf of all victims and persons affected; thank you.

    Whether or not the Kelly in these comments actually attended New Bethany or is really just a mole for Ford and his family and supporters remains to be seen.

    The primary emotion I feel for any female who truly attended New Bethany and left there, grew up and ended up on this blog typing this: “U guys are crazy! I went to this school and all he did was teach fucked up kids how to act right. Take a look around at society… Its out of control…. Wake up!!!!!” is one of utter pity and then, gratitude. Pity for a life lived in the confines of narrow and punitive blinders, like a horse that isn’t free. Gratitude that somehow I escaped that fate as far as it relates to abuse and religion.

    This person clearly believes that if she deems a woman trashy, that she is also lying about abuse. Trashy is such a subjective term, besides and so one really has to wonder who Kelly thinks deserves to be believed or protected, all based on her physical inspection of a person.

    Kelly, if you are in fact not a former resident, then I can only tell you to buckle up and get comfortable because we are not going away. Ford’s death is not of consequence in our long term efforts. If you want to post a picture of yourself, I would love to see just who it is I am talking to. I realize you and your ilk are more often than not, cowards of the lowest kind so I’m not holding my breath.

    Meanwhile, we will carry on just as we have been.

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    Appalachian Agnostic

    I find it telling that Kelli disappeared once you asked her to provide specifics. Many years ago a teacher from my former school resigned amid allegations that he had had inappropriate contact with female students. He never did anything to me in all the time I was there. I even found myself alone with him once or twice and nothing happened. This does not mean that I automatically discount any charges against him as “crazy”. It just means that my personal experience doesn’t provide any evidence that would back up the allegations.

    The ladies from New Bethany have my sympathy. Many of them are close to my age and their story has affected me. I hope all of them find the strength to overcome the trauma they suffered.

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    I had such an abusive childhood… That when I finally got sent to Bethanys, I thought it was going to be a great place. I didn’t mind the fences and the locked doors, I was just glad that my father wasn’t there to make me have sex with him. But then Mac saw me in church one day, and he commented to Nora in front of everybody about how pale I looked… And that’s when they started giving me “special“ treatment. He acted just like my father, except for at his place I couldnt run away like I did my dads. I was only 11 years old, I was put in the young girls house. I remember trying to run away once, and getting caught by the girls at the end of the street. I remember getting beat by Miss Nora for trying to run away. I guess that’s when I kind of gave up. Thankfully at the end of my year, they sent me away. Of course away meant back to my fathers. I know yesterday was I reminded about my time at new Bethany’s, and I wanted to look it up… And then I got all the news… We will never get justice for what daddy Mac dead, just like I’ll never get justice for what my father did, and he still living. My heart goes out to all you girls that suffered. I’m t only yesterday was I reminded about my time at new Bethany’s, and I wanted to look it up… And then I got all the news… We will never get justice for what daddy Mac dead, just like I’ll never get justice for what my father dad, and he still living. My heart goes out to all you girls that suffered. I’m Tawnee I was there in 1982-83. I remember one of my housemates in the small house got a broken foot, only she didn’t know it was broken for a couple weeks… If anyone wants to connect.

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    MJ Lisbeth

    I know I’m late here, but I just saw this post today. Reading about Mack Ford reminded me of Bruce Ritter, the Franciscan priest who founded Covenant House, a place for homeless teenagers.

    His agency’s budget would grow to $87 million by the early ‘90’s and he would become one of the most celebrated people in NYC.

    I met him during that time. The director of an organization in which I worked wanted to do a program in Covenant House. I remember my unease with him and feeling like the “ugly duckling” in the room because, it seemed, everyone else—including the director of my organization—just fawned over him.

    That was long before I talked about my own sexual abuse with anyone, so I couldn’t—or perhaps wouldn’t—pin down what I was feeling that day. But I would soon hear, from an acquaintance, about his abuses. That young man ended up in Covenant House after being bullied at school and kicked out of his family’s house for—you guessed it—being gay.

    I think of how that young man’s trauma was magnified by Father Ritter, and how many other people have (or had: that young man is dead) similar stories.

    Oh, and Father Ritter committed “financial improprieties” with his organization. Should we be surprised?

    Jo—Thank you for sharing your painful experiences!

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    Yulya Sevelova

    Tawney, is there any legal aid organization that can help with prosecuting your bio-dad ? He doesn’t sound like he deserves to be called a father, in any way. Please go to support groups for survivors of child abuse if you feel alone or overwhelmed. Thank you for sharing what happened to you.

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    It is amazing to see how all of you think that the alleged accusers are telling the gospel truth. Not defending the man just pointing out how you do not investigate the alleged victims’ statements but accept them without question

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      Bruce Gerencser

      Yes, you are defending the man, just like you did Bill Cosby and Ravi Zacharias.

      I personally know many of these women. I believe them. I’ve been publicizing stories such as this for years. Knowing what price victims pay for going public, I believe them.

      I have received several emails about your comments. I have decided to permanently ban you. I warned you about not doing what you did in this comment, yet did it anyway.

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      Ann Lo

      You have established yourself as being pro-abuse. Bruce and the folks here are anti-abuse. So I rejoice and am thankful for the decline of conservative evangelicalism. It is toxic to society because it has not only its abusers, but its enablers of abuse, of which you are one. Fortunately, in part thanks to Bruce, news of the abuse is getting out and people are leaving conservative Christian churches in droves. In honor of your pro-abuse comment, I will assist in the effort to get the word out so that more people can leave evangelicalism if they so choose. I am also thankful that you are being permanently banned and that healthy limits are being set on your bad behavior.

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      Ben Berwick

      Oh come ON David. Your attitude towards victims of serious crimes is appalling. You are aware that the prevailing attitude towards victims has been to dismiss them, to claim they are liars or that they deserved it. This is why so many victims of sexual assault never come forward at all, because people like you will alternately ridicule them or imply they had it coming.

      As with all crimes, there should be a thorough investigation, but with sexual crimes that often doesn’t happen, because the victim’s claims never get investigated. The reputation of the suspect is deemed more important, or their standing means no one takes the allegations seriously, and they get away with it.

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    The state does no belter with these lost troubled people, i worked for a state prison 7 years all they do is feed and for some give them a job with no pay, i do not agree with all the teachings of Lester Roloff but did go to this home and even spent one full night in the dorm and i saw nothing wrong plus they never accepted one dime of government money the state would do well to mind their own business and respect the freedom of religion that is in the US constitution

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      Bruce Gerencser

      Let me summarize your position:

      1. I didn’t see it (rape), so it didn’t happen
      2. These homes are religious institutions, thus the government needs to “respect” their freedom to rape children.
      3. The states causes harm to children, so it’s okay if Baptist group homes do too.

      Did I miss anything?

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Bruce Gerencser