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“His passion was to call America back to traditional values. He stood up and said what the Bible said - about life, and about living,” Mrs. Falwell added.

There is still some melancholy in her voice - but clear resolve.

Her book is a narrative and, in many ways, a family album. Mrs. Falwell is candid; she does not skip the fact that Mr. Falwell’s father shot and killed his own brother in self-defense during a family tussle. She shares the tales of her husband’s pranks, their meals together and the wedding photos from 1958, which show the white lace and promises characteristic of that optimistic era.

God is never far away.

“Our story is about Jerry, Jesus and me, and what happened when our lives intersected,” Mrs. Falwell writes.

There’s old-fashioned, Bible-thumping faith on most every page of the book, along with evidence of another old-fashioned virtue - hard work.

As a 22-year-old graduate of a Bible college, Mr. Falwell founded Thomas Road Baptist Church in an old soft-drink factory in Lynchburg - personally knocking on the doors of 600 neighbors as the summer temperatures soared, asking them to attend services.

A man who was too ashamed to show up because he had no suitable shoes was in for a surprise: The sweating young pastor promptly removed his own shoes and handed them over - making his rounds that day in stocking feet. The initial congregation eventually grew from 35 to the eighth-largest in the U.S.

Though the media often vilified him, Mr. Falwell understood its workings very well. That year he began “The Old Time Gospel Hour,” a radio and TV ministry, and was “preaching on the air and bragging on God,” his wife recalled.

“Jerry had one of the greatest traits of a pastor. He loved people,” she said.

His church, personal profile and business acumen grew rapidly. From the Rev. Billy Graham to Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, “the Rev. Jerry Falwell” was friends over the years to politicians and dignitaries - to the rich, the famous, the infamous, the godly and the ungodly.

“In Dr. Falwell, we found a unique and tremendous supernatural visionary - a great warrior in growing God’s kingdom on earth,” said Fox News talk-show host Sean Hannity, who wrote the forward for the book.

“He imploded and reshaped the American political landscape by rallying millions of Christians into the most powerful values-based voting bloc in the history of this country to date,” Mr. Hannity said.

“His legacy is something faithful we can refer to in these throw-away, here today/gone tomorrow times of instant gratification and pervasive godlessness,” he added.