The Austin Chronicle

Madalyn Murray O'hair Timeline

November 20, 1998, News

Palm Sunday, 1919 - Madalyn Mays born in Beechview, PA.

Oct. 1923: Madalyn baptized in Presbyterian Church.

Oct. 1941: Madalyn marries John Henry Roths.

Sept. 1945: Madalyn has an affair with William J. Murray Jr., who fathers her eldest child of the same name. She sues Roths for divorce and begins calling herself Madalyn Murray, even though she never married Murray.

1949: Madalyn moves to Houston and gets a law degree from South Texas College of Law. She fails the bar exam.

1957-60: Madalyn attends socialist group meetings. Attempts to defect to Soviet Union at Soviet Embassy in Paris. Soviets deny her entry.

1960: Madalyn sues Baltimore school district to remove prayer from schools.

1963: U.S. Supreme Court, in Abington School Dist. v. E. Schempp, bans prayer and Bible reading in public schools. Madalyn's suit, Murray v. Curlett, is secondary litigant. That same year, Madalyn flees Baltimore to escape charges that she assaulted five Baltimore policemen. She ends up in Mexico.

1965: Madalyn lands in Austin. Marries Richard O'Hair, a former FBI informant.

1977: Madalyn is arrested for disrupting an Austin City Council meeting. She later runs for council, finishing fourth among a field of 10 candidates.

1978: Madalyn wins suit against the state of Texas to abolish requirement that public officials swear their belief in a Supreme Being.

1980: William Murray, Madalyn's oldest child, is "born again" at Gateway Baptist Church in Dallas.

1988: American Atheists Inc. General Headquarters (AAGHQ) opens for business in Austin.

1993: Madalyn and son Jon Garth Murray, in midst of litigation over the ownership of an atheist publication called The Truth Seeker, begin working to hide assets in anticipation of losing a lawsuit filed against them in San Diego.

1993: David Waters begins working at AAGHQ.

Jan. 1994: The Charles E. Stevens Atheist Library is shipped from Houston to Kansas City and put in storage to prevent it from being seized by the plaintiffs in the Truth Seeker lawsuit.

March 30, 1994: Waters withdraws $7,000 from AAGHQ payroll account and purchases a cashier's check made out to himself in the amount of $3,500. It is the first of several transactions that Waters makes while Madalyn, Jon, and Robin are in San Diego. In all, he takes $54,000 from the atheist accounts.

April 29, 1994: Waters is charged with theft by appropriation, a second degree felony.

May 22, 1995: Waters pleads guilty to theft. He receives 10 years' probation and is ordered to pay restitution and to have no contact with Madalyn, Jon, and Robin.

July 1995: Danny Fry, an acquaintance of Waters, arrives in Austin.

Aug. 1995: Madalyn, Jon, and Robin take vacation to Virginia; they later return to Austin.

Aug. 27, 1995: Jon, Robin and Madalyn leave Austin for the last time. Leaving a note on the door at AAGHQ telling employees they are gone for a while, the three go to San Antonio.

Sept. 4, 1995: Ad appears in San Antonio Express-News: "88 Benz 300 SEL $15,000 cash. Firm." Ad leaves Jon's cell phone number. San Antonio real estate agent Mark Sparrow answers ad. The seller, a man who calls himself Jon but doesn't fit Jon Garth Murray's description, tells Sparrow he's in a hurry to sell, and that he can be contacted at Bonnie Jeane's, a San Antonio bar.

Sept. 5, 1995: Sparrow buys Jon's Mercedes in a parking lot next to the Warren Inn apartments in San Antonio, the place where, according to the Express-News, Fry was living.

Sept. 16, 1995: Waters buys a white Cadillac El Dorado from a San Antonio couple for $13,000 in cash.

Sept. 22, 1995: Jon orders $600,000 worth of gold coins from San Antonio jeweler Cory Ticknor. The coins are paid for with money wired to a San Antonio bank from another bank in New Jersey. The funds originated from one of the atheists' bank accounts in New Zealand.

Sept. 29, 1995: At 12:24 pm, Jon makes a seven minute-long phone call to AAGHQ. It is the last phone call he made on his cellular phone. Later that day, Jon takes delivery of $500,000 in gold coins from Ticknor. He never collected the final $100,000 worth of coins from Ticknor.

Sept. 30, 1995: 2:30pm, Danny Fry calls his daughter in Florida for the last time.

Mid-December, 1995: Two cocker spaniels, Gannon and Shannon, owned by Jon and Robin, disappear from a locked, fenced enclosure behind AAGHQ.

Sept. 24, 1996: Bill Murray files a missing persons report with Austin Police Department. Police begin investigation.

Oct. 1996: Robin's 1985 Porsche 944 is found abandoned at the Austin airport.

Dec. 1996: IRS revokes tax-exempt status for two atheist nonprofits, the Charles E. Stevens American Atheist Library and Archives Inc., and the Society of Separationists Inc.

Jan. 31, 1997: Bill Murray abandons his effort to control the estate of the missing trio.

December 1997: IRS seizes the $100,000 in gold coins Jon left with Ticknor.

July 1998: The house at 3702 Greystone Drive that Madalyn, Jon, and Robin shared is sold for $240,000 to satisfy creditors.

Sept. 1998: Atheist leaders agree to sell their 17,500-square-foot building on Cameron Road to AIDS Services of Austin for $800,000.

Oct. 2, 1998: Waters contacts The Austin Chronicle.

Oct. 7, 1998: Waters shows dozens of pages of correspondence dating back to 1993 and 1994 that Waters took from AAGHQ.

Oct. 27, 1998: Waters has a probation hearing in front of Travis Co. Magistrate Jim Coronado, who lectures Waters that his cable bill of $85 is too high, and that "if your interest is in staying out of jail," he'd better get current on his restitution payments to the American Atheists.

Sources: Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express-News, Austin American-Statesman, Reuters, Saints and Sinners by Lawrence Wright, American Atheists Inc.

Copyright © 2024 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.