Here in Lynchburg, a whole community was grieving. Phelps described how, five days before Falwell died, he handed out diplomas to pre-kindergarten kids at his church's early learning center. He tapped her grandson on the head with his diploma, hugged others and posed for photos. "It was such a proud thing for us," Phelps recalled. "How loved he was."
She also described how in the 1960s she lived near Falwell's early church building and her father despised the young pastor: "My daddy absolutely could not stand him." One Sunday churchgoers parked in front of their house, and after that, "my daddy would take kitchen chairs and sit out in the street just so they couldn't park there. He said to Jerry, 'You may get all of Lynchburg, but you'll never get me.' A couple of years later, Jerry reminded my daddy of that when he baptized him."
Lynchburg has many stories like that, and Falwell knew about how God changes people, including himself. He admitted in his autobiography that he was once a racist. He at times apologized for over-the-top statements. He repeatedly in recent years said that he was not a fundamentalist. But he persevered in his goal for Liberty University's football team: "One day in a wheelchair, I plan to be at the 50 yard-line in South Bend when we whip Notre Dame I may be in a coffin, but that's where we're headed."