MADALYN MURRAY O'HAIR Biography - Religious Figures & Icons


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Name: Madalyn Murray O'Hair                                                           
Born: 13 April 1919 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States                           
Died: 29 September 29, 1995 Austin, Texas, United States                               
Madalyn Murray O'Hair (April 13, 1919 - September 29, 1995) was an American           
atheist and activist.                                                                 
She is best known for the lawsuit Murray v. Curlett which led to a landmark           
Supreme Court ruling and ended the practice of daily prayer in American public         
schools. O'Hair later founded American Atheists and became so controversial           
that, in 1964, Life magazine referred to her as "the most hated woman in America."     
Madalyn Mays was born in the Beechview neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania       
in 1919 to Lena Christina Scholle and John Irwin Mays. As an infant, she was           
baptized into the Presbyterian church. She graduated from Rossford High               
School in Rossford, Ohio.                                                             
She married John Henry Roths in 1941. They separated when they both enlisted for       
World War II service, he in the United States Marine Corps, she in the Women's         
Army Corps (WACs). In 1945, while posted to a cryptography position in Italy,         
she began an affair with an officer, William J. Murray, Jr. Murray was a married       
Roman Catholic, and he refused to divorce his wife. Mays divorced Roths and           
began calling herself Madalyn Murray, and gave birth to a boy she named William       
J. Murray.                                                                             
Murray completed a bachelor's degree from Ashland College. In 1952 she                 
completed a law degree from South Texas College of Law, but she failed the bar         
exam and never practiced law. On November 16, 1954, she gave birth to another         
son, Jon Garth Murray, by a different father.                                         
Differing versions of this point in Murray's life exist. Some sources state that       
Murray attended meetings of the Socialist Workers Party in 1957 while living in       
a Baltimore townhouse with her sons, parents and brother. In 1959 she applied         
for Soviet citizenship. The following year, having gotten no                           
response, she and her two children traveled by ship to Europe with the intention       
of defecting to the Soviet embassy in Paris and residing in the Soviet Union.         
The Soviets refused them entry. Murray and her sons returned to Baltimore in           
Murray states that she worked for 17 years as a psychiatric social worker, and         
that in 1960 she was a supervisor at the Baltimore city public welfare