I was not surprised to learn that just a month after the final break with her mother, in August of 1930, Aimee Semple McPherson suffered an almost complete physical collapse. She was diagnosed with Metabolic acidosis, when the kidneys are unable to remove carbon dioxide from the blood. The body tries to compensate by expelling more through the lungs, causing hypo-ventilation. The victim is left constantly exhausted. As a result Sister Aimee spent most of 1930 in her sick bed. The following year of 1931, Aimee returned to her demanding schedule, and in September, while heading to Portland, Oregon for a week long revival, she stopped off at San Quentin Penitentiary, to visit her old rival, Asa Keyes.
A lot of people were suspicious of the way in which Keyes dropped the prosecution of Aimee, et al. And even before he stepped down as District Attorney in 1928, a grand jury was looking into the matter. Although there were a lot of rumors about a payoff, there was not enough evidence to indict Keyes. However he was indicted and convicted of accepting a $140,000 bribe for undermining the prosecution of a half dozen well connected power brokers in the Julian Petroleum scandal. He served 3 years, and upon his release friends in the movie business found him work in several courtroom dramas, punching up the scripts with legal jargon, occasionally working as an extra, always with his back to the camera, voicing objections. He died of a stroke in 1934.
Aimee's self appointed cross-town rival, the Reverend Robert Schuler (above), deplored the “loyalty of thousands to this leader in the face of her evident and positively proven guilt.” Typically for Shuler, it was an over statement, and a few weeks later an Aimee supporter punched “Fighting Bob” in the snoot. Fighting Bob did not fight back. Still the publicity was a victory for him. That Christmas he was presented with a $25,000 donation, specifically to build their own radio station, making him Aimee's equal at lest in wattage. The only difference was that Aimee's station belonged to the Angelus Temple, while Shuler put his station in his own name. However the new reach of his anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic, anti-Aimee venom inspired the L.A. Times to note, “Unless you have been attacked by Rev. 'Bob' Shuler...you don't amount to much in Los Angeles.”
By 1932 Aimee (above right) felt the need to return to the revival trail, and started looking for help running the Angelus Temple while she preached - sort of a replacement for her mother, Mildred Kennedy . Aimee chose as her new co-minister a “blue-eyed blond slip of a girl” named Rheba Crawford Splival (above, left). She was a Salvation Army convert known in New York as “The Angel of Broadway”. But her sudden rise allowed Rheba to dream of taking over Aimee's world. However the Great Depression and the haphazard bookkeeping at the Temple drained even the flood of Sunday offerings. And in 1935 Aimee was forced to execute a coup, reducing Rheba's power on the board and publicly blaming her and Aimee's own daughter Roberta, for the mess. But Rheba was an experienced dirty fighter, and convinced Roberta to sue her mother for defamation. In a separate suit Rheba demanded $1 million for herself, claiming Aimee had called her a Judas. Mildred Kennedy testified against her daughter Aimee in both cases. A judge awarded Roberta $5,000, and Aimee settled out of court with Rheba.
By 1940 the running of the Angelus Temple had been finally placed in the hands of professionals, with Aimee as the spiritual guide only. It was the role she'd been born to. She had come to rely more and more on her son Rolf, and at ten in the morning of Tuesday, 26 September 1944 it was Rolf who found his mother unconscious. There were rumors of course that the “Miracle Woman” had committed suicide. But the truth was that she had taken sleeping pills the night before. When she felt ill, she had called two separate doctors seeking advice. The first was unavailable, and the second recommended she call a third. She passed out before she could make the final call. Aimee Semple McPherson died at 11:15 that morning.
At her death, Aimee's personal estate was valued at just $10,000. Roberta was bequeathed $2,000. Mildred Kennedy got $10, but with the requirement that if she contested the will, she was to received nothing. The remaining $8,000 went to Rolf, the only one who had remained loyal. He would lead the Angelus Temple for the next 44 years, the mother church to almost 9 million believers world wide.
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