Ole Anthony, a former Air Force intelligence specialist and Texas political operative who found Jesus in 1972, built a following among the down-and-out of east Dallas, and then used that movement to take down a rogue's gallery of unscrupulous televangelists and faith healers, died April 13 at a house in Dallas that he shared with several members of his organization, the Trinity Foundation. He was 82.
His death was confirmed by Pete Evans, a Trinity member who, like Anthony, had taken a vow of poverty before acquiring a private investigator's license, which let him peer deeper into the lifestyles of rich and famous preachers.
"The message of most television evangelists makes God an instrument of instant gratification," the son of Norwegian immigrants said in a 1987 interview with the Chicago Tribune. "These sellers of doves in the sanctuary are an embarrassment to any sincere believer and to the name of God."
He specialized in what he called garbology — rooting through dumpsters for evidence of legal or spiritual fraud by televangelists like Robert Tilton, Benny Hinn and W.V. Grant, just three of the more than 300 he went after during his nearly 35-year campaign.
He compiled the results in long reports that he fed to reporters, and he made frequent appearances on shows like "Primetime Live" and "Inside Edition." His work was largely responsible for the implosion of Tilton's $80 million-a-year empire and Grant's 1996 imprisonment for tax evasion. In 2007, he worked with the Senate Finance Committee in its own investigation into televangelists.
Anthony's movement was a community with a core of about 50 followers who lived in adjacent homes in an east Dallas neighborhood. They took meals together and joined Anthony in often obscenity-laced, sometimes violent Bible study sessions. Many of them, like Evans, also worked on his investigations.
Anthony's critics — there were many — accused him of running a cult. Evans denied that Trinity was a cult, but he admitted that Anthony's personality, and theology, had not been for everyone. "He had a confrontational style," he said, "and that's what rubbed some people the wrong way."
Ole Edward Anthony was born Oct. 3, 1938, in St. Peter, Minn., and grew up in Wickenburg, Ariz., a town 60 miles northwest of Phoenix.
His childhood, he said, was marked by drug abuse and crime, both petty and felonious. He joined the Air Force in 1956 after being offered the choice of military service or prison.
Anthony was trained in electronics, and in 1958 he was sent to an island in the South Pacific, where he was supposed to watch a small nuclear test many miles away. But the explosion was much larger than expected, and the radiation left him with scores of knobby tumors throughout his body.
Anthony moved to Dallas in 1962 and became involved in Republican politics, working on campaigns and, in 1968, narrowly losing a race for the state Legislature.
A lapsed Lutheran, Anthony had what he called his "Road to Damascus" moment on Jan. 17, 1972, when he heard a British missionary talk about self-denial — "death to self" — as the only way to God. He immediately gave it all up.
"I was an atheist one day and a sold-out believer the next," he said in a 2013 interview. He started the Trinity Foundation the next year, naming it not for the Christian doctrine but after the world's first nuclear test.
Anthony never backed off his confrontational style or his dogged pursuit of televangelists. As recently as last year he was tracking the flights of private jets owned by prominent TV preachers.
"There's more fraud in the name of God than any other kind of fraud in the world," he said in the 2013 interview. "That's just heartbreaking."