1934: Bernie Lazar Hoffman is born in Joplin, Mo. He later calls himself Tony Alamo, inspired by popular Italian American singers, such as Frank Sinatra and Perry Como.
1964: Alamo claims that, while working as a Los Angeles music promoter, God strikes him temporarily deaf and tells him to spread the word that Jesus will soon return.
1966: Alamo marries Susan Lipowitz, an aspiring actress. They legally change their names to Tony and Susan Alamo and start their religious work.
1969: The Tony and Susan Alamo Foundation is formed and begins ministering to Hollywood street kids.
1970:The Alamos open a church and several businesses north of Los Angeles. Followers, who live in squalid conditions and provide cheap labor, are told that if they leave they will die, go insane or turn into homosexuals.
1975: The Alamos move to Alma, Ark., and open a church, and many businesses, including a nightclub. Bill Clinton visits the nightclub to see Dolly Parton perform and describes Tony Alamo as “Roy Orbison on speed.”
1976: The U.S. Labor Department charges that Alamo failed to pay employees who manufacture “Tony Alamo” brand sequined denim jackets. He loses the suit and a 1985 U.S. Supreme Court appeal.
1982: Susan Alamo dies of cancer. Her body is kept on display for six months while their followers pray for her resurrection.
1985: The IRS revokes the tax-exempt status of Alamo’s church.
1988: Alamo is charged with child abuse for ordering followers to beat an 11-year-old boy. Prosecutors drop the charge, citing lack of evidence. The child’s parents sue Alamo and win a $1.5 million judgment.
1991: The body of Susan Alamo is taken from a mausoleum on the cult’s compound in Arkansas after federal marshals seize the property to satisfy a legal judgment.
1993: A Memphis, Tenn., grand jury indicts Alamo for evading income taxes in the late 1980s. Alamo becomes a fugitive. The FBI warns that he “is always accompanied by bodyguards who have access to numerous weapons, to include M-14 rifles.”
1994: Alamo is convicted on the tax-related charges. He serves four years in prison and owes the government $7.9 million.
1998: Alamo is released from prison, moves to Fouke, Ark., and re-establishes his church.
2006: Fouke officials praise Alamo for his acts of “Christian love and kindness.” Locals feel less kindly when Alamo posts armed guards along the road to his compound.
2007: Tony Alamo Christian Ministries is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its anti-Catholic statements. Alamo is implicated in the illegal saleof mattresses donated to Hurricane Katrina victims.
Sept. 20, 2008: Federal and state authorities, prompted by allegations of child pornography, conduct a search at Tony Alamo Christian Ministries. Child welfare workers take custody of six children.
Sources: Los Angeles Times; Southern Poverty Law Center; The Associated Press; “My Life,” Bill Clinton — published as a sidebar to the article, Inside the Arkansas compound, tales of abuse and neglect, Michelle Roberts, The Oregonian, Sep. 21, 2008