Marshall Applewhite

From Academic Kids

Marshall Herff Applewhite (May 17, 1931 - c. March 26, 1997) was the leader of the Heaven's Gate cult. He died in the cult's suicide in 1997.

Applewhite was born in 1931, the son of a Presbyterian minister who started new churches and moved from place to place in Texas about every three years. As a kid, Applewhite wanted to preach like his father.

Later, in his 30's, in the 1960's, Applewhite led a musical career. He played starring roles in stage musicals in Colorado and Texas, was the choir director at St. Marks Episcopal Church in Houston, sang 15 roles with the Houston Grand Opera, and taught music at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. He married during this time, and had two children.

In 1972, Applewhite's life took a turn for the worse, when he left his family and met a 44-year-old nurse named Bonnie Nettles. While living in Houston, Applewhite had some trouble with his heart and ended up in the hospital and, according to the nurses, had a near-death experience. While at the hospital, he met Bonnie who convinced him that the experience was for a very special reason and that he could be used mightily in a group about which she knew. The two, never lovers, gave one another playful names such as "bo" and "peep." Applewhite saw Nettles as his superior, and there is evidence that their mental illnesses rebounded on one another within the cult fabric.

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