James Walter Nichols Has Another "Hot One" Going!

Cecil Willis
Marion, Indiana

Regardless of what else one may think about James Walter Nichols, he cannot deny that he certainly has an "eye for business," or that he is a super salesman and a promoter par excellence. He is the god-father of some of the most lucrative exploits ever promoted among God's children. There have been few men in history who have made their religious fervor and financial acumen combine to handle more money. And in spite of what Nichols has already done, he seems to have his hottest business idea yet in the launching stage.

But perhaps you are not familiar with James Walter Nichols. Certainly he is best known as the Founder of the Herald of Truth Radio and Television Program. The preacher blowbook, PREACHERS OF TODAY, Vol. 1, says: "After several years of planning, he and James Willeford led in launching a nation-wide radio broadcast over the ABC network, called 'The Herald of Truth.' Hundreds of congregations and individuals contributed to this work and the broadcast is presented over more -than 150 stations across the nation each Sunday. It is the largest radio effort ever attempted by the churches of Christ ... (p. 251).

Ostensibly, the elders of the Highland Avenue church in Abilene, Texas have the oversight of the Herald of Truth now, though they did not start the program, have never paid for the program, and could not stop the program if they wanted to. Yet they claim it is their program. In explaining why they used such young and relatively inexperienced preachers on the brotherhood's program, the Highland elders said, "Some ask, why did Highland elders pick Nichols and Willeford instead of older preachers to do the speaking? The elders were on the wrong side of the table to pick. The whole idea was a 'brain child' born out of the minds of Nichols and Willeford." (FIRM FOUNDATION, July 14, 1953).

This 'brain child' of Nichols has been, until very recently, his chief claim to fame. He has just had another 'brain child' that very likely will dwarf his earlier 'brain child.' His latest 'brain child' is apt to make his earlier 'brain-child' look more like a stepchild!

But what has been the outgrowth of his first 'brain-child,' the Herald of Truth? It was started on February 3, 1952 as a national radio program. Since then it has grown until it has become the prime rallying point of the liberal cause, and has been directly involved in the splitting of literally hundreds of the Lord's churches. It must be quite a feather in one's cap to have dreamed up something that could wreak such havoc in the Lord's church.

Since its beginning in 1952, this 'brainchild' of Nichols has taken in about $7,000,000.00. The promoters of the Herald of Truth have succeeded in getting 3199 different churches to send them money, and have received funds from 28,000 different individuals. They have used 11.249c' of every dollar they have ever received under the guise of preaching the gospel to beg more money. They have spent something like $750,000.00 begging money since 1952 - enough money to pay for about one hundred years of gospel preaching.

When the Herald of Truth was officially launched in 1952 as a national program, James Walter Nichols was 25 years old; He had been about five years in developing the program to national status. So he began pro-motion of a radio network that evolved into the Herald of Truth when he was about 20 years of age. Now who would have thought that a 20 year old boy could have been instrumental in getting seasoned preachers and experienced elders to disregard all they had ever preached and learned from the New Testament and to pool the resources of more than 3,000 churches under the direction of one eldership? Nichols must be quite a promoter! I readily concede his promotional prowess and economic acumen. As I said, he has an eye for business!

But when the money began to flow in by the thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars, and finally by the millions of dollars, Nichols decided that he would enter the business field. Highland Avenue church now has a Herald of Truth budget of more than

$2,000,000.00 a year, and Nichols is now partner in several businesses with several other Highland members. Much of their business volume comes from the Herald of Truth, of which he was the creative father, and is the chief benefactor.

Since the Herald of Truth has a printing and supplies budget of $203,500.00 a year, Nichols soon found it convenient to become one of the owners of a printing firm. Since

$474,200.00 a year is allocated by the Herald of Truth for "broadcast production," Nichols thought he should be into the film production business, "for the good of the cause," of course. And since $104,500 a year is allocated for listener promotion, Nichols quite conveniently set up an advertising firm. Besides the money that they collect directly from the Herald of Truth, Fidelity Advertising Company collects money from the stations and networks in commissions, collects commissions on printing, type and engraving contracts, and is hourly contracted and project contracted to do research, copy and art. And since Herald of Truth allocates $85,000.00 a year for research, it is lucrative to be in the research business too.

Herald of Truth was on 515 radio stations in 1965. Fidelity Advertising gets $2.50 per week for each radio station that carries the Herald of Truth on a sustaining basis. For 515 sustaining radio stations James Walter Nichols and company would r e c e i v e $66,950.00 annually in commissions, and $83,200.00 commissions on the 128 television stations carrying the program, if they also were sustaining stations (at their rate of $12.50 per station per week). So Fidelity Advertising could rake in $150,150.00 per year out of the Herald of Truth till on advertising rates alone.

So you see that James Walter Nichols was not only "smart" enough to think up an unscriptural concept, he also was smart enough to be all set up in a suitable business that could supply nearly everything his 'brainchild' would be wanting to buy. And one's child is not apt to fail to do business with his father, is he?

It just sounds like one could not have invented a hotter item than the Herald of Truth. But business tycoons must keep the wheels turning. They must have their fingers in many different pies. And James Walter Nichols is a business tycoon. The March 20, 1967 Newsweek Magazine tells about his latest venture. He is "project officer" of a newly started fourth Network to compete with CBS, NBC, and ABC. Their company will be called United Network Co.

The Men From UNC

With it flurry of press releases, warehouse tycoon Daniel H. Overmyer broke the word last July that lie was entering the television game. Lamenting the fact that late-night viewers are offered little besides Johnny Carson and old flicks be promised to fill the gap with shows beamed from Las Vegas nightclubs. This was to be the splashy headline act of a S6 million "fourth network," headed by former ABC-TV president Oliver Treyz; it would begin broadcasting this April.

Overmyer, however, underestimated the cost of creating a network and dispatched Treyz two months ago to scout for more money. The result announced last week named no anionnt, but it obviously added up to plenty of change. Led by Jack V. McGlothlin, a rich Texas petroleum executive, four new backers absorbed the Overmyer Network into a new and fatter company. Overmyer will remain the biggest stockholder and Treyz continues as president, but the operation has been renamed the United Network Co. What's more, the new backers have appointed a "project officer" to look after their investment: lie is James W. Nichols, 39, a fundamentalist preacher from Abilene, Texas, who heads an ad agency and publishing house that prints such monthlies as Christian Woman and Teenage Christian.

Silent: How will this affect the network's programming? Apparently very little. Treyz will go ahead in May with the already scheduled fare: a two-hour program in color from Las Vegas five nigbts a week; 90 minutes of news produced nightly by United Press International; Continental League pro football games next fall and, with a nod to Nichols's calling, Bible stories on the weekend.

United is silent about money, but industry sources say the company plans to trade its nightly spectaculars to 125 affiliates for free time; this will provide sixteen one-minute advertising spots that the network will try to sell for $6,000 apiece.

Will the new enterprise make ABC, CBS and NBC say UNC? The older networks are skeptical. "But," admitted one top TV executive, "maybe you can bring anything off with it bunch of Texas millionaires."

(Newsweek, March 20, 1967, p. 97)

In this venture Nichols has joined hands with Jack V. McGlothlin, whom NEWSWEEK describes as a "rich Texas petroleum executive" and with Oliver Treyz, former ABC-TV president, and other financial backers. NEWSWEEK describes Nichols as "James W. Nichols, 39, a fundamentalist preacher from Abilene, Texas, who heads an ad agency and publishing house that prints such monthlies as CHRISTIAN WOMAN and TEENAGE CHRISTIAN."

What is this new network going to offer to the public that the present networks do not? NEWSWEEK reported that the backers of what is now called United Network Company lamented "the fact that late-night viewers are offered little besides Johnny Carson and old flicks And they have a better idea!

Daniel H. Overmyer, "warehouse tycoon," who did early promotion for this endeavor "promised to fill the gap with shows beamed from Las Vegas nightclubs. This was to be the splashy headline act of a $6 million fourth network United Network Company "will go ahead in May with the already scheduled fare: a two-hour program in color from Las Vegas five nights a week " Johnny Carson had better look out. He is going to have rough competition. Now you must remember that Brother Nichols is a gospel preacher, and lie could not show only Las Vegas nightclub acts. So NEWSWEEK says they will have pro football games, "and with a nod to Nichol's calling, Bible stories on the weekend."

If they put on a few Bible stories on the weekend, maybe the brethren will not grumble too much about Brother Nichol's headlining two hours each night from Las Vegas Nightclubs and in color too!

It has not yet been made quite clear how Brother Nichols plans to rope the 3199 churches he has sending money to the Herald of Truth into the United Network Co. He might be able to arrange for United Network Co. to carry the Herald of Truth exclusively, so that UNC gets all Herald of Truth commissions. Or he may let the churches of Christ buy their own United Network Company (at a good profit, naturally), like they have already done on World Radio. But after viewing the way that he has made his other 'brain-child' pay off for his commercial enterprises, I do not doubt that a man of Nichol's financial ingenuity already has ideas running through his mind. He can begin his advertising program by using the addresses of the 10,312 churches that his other 'brainchild' already has on its mailing list. And surely Herald of Truth would not deprive its father of the usage of such a list. And with the live Nightclub acts from Las Vegas in color, there is just no telling how much money this new 'brain-child' might make.

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XI: 9, pp. 2-4
June 1967