What’s New? My Podcast “Dignity and Respect” Alternative Religion?
I am Father Divine’s Legacy, not a Museum that his followers built for him to live in the luxury of my family’s fortune to keep the 501C3 active for their financial enrichment.
They say they believe that he is God. If so then do what God wanted and return Woodmont my home to me as he wanted.
Mention the name of Father Divine to most people nowadays and at best you’ll get a blank stare, followed by Who? Or they may evoke Rev. Ike or some other televangelist preacher with the sole purpose of securing a few dollars from your wallet.
A more informed response will come from those who know something about African American history, particularly the 1930s when Father Divine Peace Mission Movement provided food and succor to millions of starving, homeless people. Leaf through any compendium of black history and invariably you’ll find a chapter, a photo, a personal reflection on Father Divine and how his ministry of social criticism, anti-racism, and the general welfare of the community was indispensable during the Great Depression.
While a thoroughgoing discussion of Divine’s mission can provide crucial insight, that is not Tommy Garcia’s main objective, nor is such an undertaking possible given Divine’s edict that his biography was beyond apprehension. What Tommy so grippingly relates, however, is almost as fantastic as some of the astonishing events of Divine’s life, and to some extent, it is consistent with his often strange and unorthodox way of dealing with American reality.
By the early 1960’s, Divine, whose followers believed him to be God incarnate was in the twilight of his years. Born George Baker, Jr. in 1879 or 1877, depending on the source, Divine was in his early eighties and perhaps worried about his mortality despite the god-like, self-proclaimed divinity of his being and a belief in eternity.
Father Divine forbade sexual intercourse, thus there was no possibility of his producing an heir with his second wife, Mother Divine, leaving no alternative but adoption. Who among hundreds of choices would be the lucky one What youngster would be chosen to live in the lap of luxury and comfort, and maybe one day inherit Father Divine’s extravagant empire He chose the boy who did not have his eye on those prizes or the throne.
In 1962, like Moses out of the bulrushes, Tommy Garcia was delivered to Father Divine’s luxurious doorstep in Gladwyne, an affluent suburb of Philadelphia. Garcia, 8 years of age, along with his 3-year-old sister, Susan were abandoned by their mother at The Divine Lorraine Hotel in Philadelphia where they spent the night, unaware of each other’s whereabouts. The next morning, the two youngsters of Greek and Mexican ancestry were delivered unto the Father, at Divine’s 72-acre estate, Woodmont. The Mount of the House of the Lord was a 32-room French Gothic mansion, and chateau surrounded by manicured acres of lawn, formal and terraced gardens, ponds and streams. Susan was immediately taken away and raised at another Divine property, and Woodmont became home for Tommy.
Though it was a relative, Tommy, who may have been chosen as part of Father Divine’s mission of an integrated society, it was still disconcerting, almost alarming without the comfort and love of their natural mother and father.
But let me stop because this is Tommy’s story. A compelling saga of how he endured years of living at Woodmont, his relationship with his new parents, his sister’s ordeal and eventual tragedy, and his subsequent return to Woodmont in an attempt to piece together those eventful days of his youth. What possessed his mother to deliver her children to Father and Mother Divine When did he realize he could no longer maintain his sanity at Woodmont? How did his sister’s death impact his life How did he stabilize his life after the tumultuous years with the Divines These are a few questions that Tommy answers as he unfolds the narrative of his life. His is a unique American story sui generis. While Tommy is at the center of this story, I believe it also provides an aperture into one of the country’s most fascinating human rights leaders, Father Divine.
Harlem, February 25, 2015
Herb Boyd is an award-winning author, journalist, TV host, and professor. He has published more than 22 books and countless articles for national magazines and newspapers.
When Mother Divine passed away on March 4th, 2017 I was made Administrator of her estate which has now been taken over by her staff.
I am reaching out to any followers of Father Divine’s Peace Mission Movement who left the movement or were asked to leave without a penny in their pocket.
Father’s legacy was destroyed the day he died and no museum will take that place.
Time to make it right.
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
February 1993, Tommy Garcia suffered the loss of his younger sister Susan. Her tragic death was the catalyst and inspiration of this search for the whole truth surrounding Tom and Susie’s lives. Love has been the driving force in our research. The search for truth is the journey. Justice is our destination.
By Tommy & Lori Garcia
In 1962, Tommy Garcia, an 8-year-old Catholic boy, arrived in Philadelphia with his birth mother, 3-year-old sister Susie, and a woman known as Louise. All had driven together from Los Angeles. Tommy was dropped off at the entrance of the Divine Lorraine Hotel and told to take Susie inside to the cafeteria.
He did not see his mother again for nearly two years. The next morning, Tommy and Susie were taken by limousine to a massive estate, Woodmont, in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania. Susie was taken away crying, and Tommy did not see her for over two years. He was ushered into the private study of Father Divine.
It is here that the charismatic leader of the Peace Mission Movement said to Tommy, “It has come to my attention Tommy that no one wants you. I want you, Tommy. I care about you. If you agree, you will live with me here at Woodmont, and I will take care of you for the rest of your life.”
This speech haunted and confused the impressionable young boy. His heart was pounding, he was thinking that something was terribly wrong. In his mind’s eye, he pictured the orphanages from the TV program East Side Kids. He looked at the peculiar configuration of people in the room–
Father Divine, Mother Divine, surrounded by their secretaries who were rapidly writing every word down in notepads — and said, “yes.” And so began his life as the son of Father Divine.