William Marrion Branham was born April 6, 1909 in Kentucky near Burksville. His parents were extremely poor farmers. As Branham got older they moved to Jeffersonville, Indiana. They were so poor he did not have a shirt to wear to school and he would wear a winter coat inside so he would not have to expose his poverty. He had no religious training, but at an early age heard a voice say to him “Do not drink or smoke or defile your body in any way, for when you get older I’ll have a work for you to do.” This so terrified the boy he ran away as fast as he could.
Branham did not have a grid for what had happened to him, but tried to obey what he’d heard. He continued to struggle with God, and when his brother Edward died he began to seek Him. Still it wasn’t until he became seriously ill that he turned his life around. He believed he was about to die. While he was in the hospital he heard the same voice that had spoken to him in his childhood. It repeated the same thing three times ‘I called you and you would not go.’ He told God “if you let me live I’ll preach the the gospel”. He felt somewhat better that day. After he got out of the hospital he began to seek a church that would lead him to repentance. He found a disciples church that believed in the baptism of the Spirit and anointing with oil. They prayed for him and he was instantly healed.
He was on fire from that point on. For six months he cried out to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. One day God’s presence came upon him in a mighty way. He felt God called him to preach the gospel and pray for the sick. He was 24 years old and he began holding tent meetings and doing what God had asked him to do. He saw many people converted. In 1933 he also saw a series of visions that spoke about the coming years including the rise of Nazism, Fascism, and Communism.
With his ministry now rolling, he built an independent Baptist church in Jeffersonville, Indiana. These were happy years for Braham. He married and had two children. During this time he became interested in the Pentecostal meesage, which was still highly controversial at that time. He attended a Pentecostal convention, and was asked to join them as a traveling evangelist. He believed that this was God, but was talked out of it by friends who thought it too controversial. He turned them down. Everything seemed to go wrong for him from that point on. His church began to fail and his wife and daughter were killed in the Ohio River flood of 1937. He believed he was under judgement from God for not doing what he was called to do.
Branham struggled over the next several years. He worked as a game warden, and a logger, and sometimes preached. He married his second wife Meda, and eventually had three more children. One day he went off to pray by himself to see if could find out God’s heart for him. He repented of his choice to not go with the Pentecostals. On May 7, 1946 he had a visitation from an angel of God. The angel said he was a seer prophet and would have two distinct signs in his life. The first was that he would be able to detect illness in people, and the second was that he would see sins in their life they needed to repent of.
Branham started his healing ministry immediately after this visitation. He started in St. Louis and then went to Texas, Louisiana, Florida, California, and eventually all over the United States. In 1948 Branham was visited by Jack Moore, a pastor out of Shreveport, Louisiana. He was so impressed he took Branham to several churches across the United States. When Moore had to return to his home church he contacted Gordon Lindsay, who took over as Branham’s campaign manager. The meetings were so dramatic that Moore, Lindsay, and Branham began the magazine and organization named “The Voice of Healing” which was headquartered in Shreveport, Louisiana. The original purpose was to report on Branham meetings, although it later expanded to include many other healing evangelists. On one campaign trip in Florida F.F. Bosworth, who had an extensive healing ministry of his own, joined the organization to support Branham’s ministry.
These meetings kicked off the healing revival that began in 1947 and continued through the 1950’s. Although he was the first, and most well known, several other healing evangelists were also raised up including A.A. Allen, Jack Coe, and Oral Roberts. Branham said himself that “Deaf, dumb, blind, all manners of diseases have been healed, and thousands of testimonies are on record to date. I do not have any power of my own to do this… God always has something or someone to work through, and I am only an instrument used by Him.” The most famous healing in the history of the healing revival was when William Branham prayed for US Congressman William Upshaw from California. Upshaw had been crippled in a farming accident as a youth and was healed when Branham prayed for him. Branham eventually took international trips to Canada, Mexico, Europe, Africa, and India.
In the mid 1950’s things began to go wrong for Branham. He had run his organization in a loose manner and felt God would take care of everything. In 1955 Branham started having financial problems. He was not having the same success in his meetings and was having trouble covering his expenses. The California Campaign put him $15,000 in debt. Others were called on to help make up the differences. The IRS began a review of his finances and found he had never kept good records of the money that flowed in and out of his ministry. It was not that he was keeping an extravagant lifestyle, quite the contrary, he lived an extremely simple life. Branham simply didn’t track where the money went. The outcome was a settlement where Branham owed the government a staggering $40,000 in back taxes.
By 1957 it was clear that God was taking his hand off the healing movement. Branham was exhausted and refused to do large meetings anymore. He was surrounding himself with supporters who began to control who was allowed to see Branham and who wasn’t. Gordon Lindsay attempted to see Branham a month before he died but refused access to Branham by the men around him. Some of those were suggesting that he was Elijah the prophet heralding the end times. His friend Gordon Lindsay felt he was falling into the same delusion that took John Alexander Dowie and wrote that in the Voice of Healing magazine. People who knew Branham say that he never made the Elijah claim on his own. Things were definitely out of balance in Branham’s life. He ministered primarily in Arizona in the winters in the last few years of his life to support his family.
In 1964 Branham had a vision where he was riding tired into the sunset. He understood that God was warning him that he would die soon. In 1965, while driving to Tucson, Arizona Branham’s car was struck by a drunk driver. He lived a few days longer and then died on Christmas Eve, 1965. A couple of years before his death he asked his dear friend Jack Moore and his daughter Anna Jeanne to write his biography. He warned them that there would be a lot of confusion that came in about his life after he died. Unfortunately they did not have the time to do what he asked, and confusion did come in. Some people created a religious group around Branham’s teachings, becoming known as Branhamites. Others wrote him off as a heretic. Branham was, and continues to be, a highly controversial figure in the healing movement. Probably the best known book written about Branham is Gordon Lindsay’s “A Man Sent From God”, which was published in the 1950’s.