Paul “Jody” Gaylor

On this date in 1926, freethinker Paul Joseph “Jody” Gaylor Jr. was born in Springfield, Mo., the eldest of three children of Irma Fairman Gaylor and Paul Joseph Gaylor Sr. Jody often said religion “never took” with him, even as a child. He was forced to submit to a full baptism immersion at age 12 in front of his congregation, an affront he never forgave.

After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, he graduated from Drury College in Springfield in 1948 and did graduate work at the University of Kansas City. He was active in athletics in college, particularly boxing. He met Anne Nicol met in Kansas City and they wed in 1949 and in 1952 moved to Madison, Wis. They were married for 61 years and had four children: Andrew, twins Ian and Annie Laurie, and Jamie.

Jody worked in building maintenance until the mid-1960s, when the Gaylors purchased and published the weekly Middleton Times-Tribune for several years. He also served as vice president for many years of a building maintenance company.

Anne and Annie Laurie and John Sontarck co-founded the Freedom From Religion Foundation in 1976, with Anne as principal founder. Jody served for more than two decades as FFRF’s busiest volunteer — picking up and sorting mail, filling sales orders, chauffeuring his wife to numerous functions, doing errands and building repair and often surprising staff and volunteers with freshly baked cookies and frosted brownies.

He was also principal photographer at FFRF events for its first two decades, taking convention and other photos appearing in FFRF’s original newsletter and then in Freethought Today. He also served as volunteer photographer for The Feminist Connection, the monthly that Annie Laurie edited and published from 1980-84.

He was one of six plaintiffs in FFRF’s historic federal challenge in 2008 of the National Day of Prayer. He entered into the court record his distaste for prayer and for the Sunday morning hypocrisy by racist deacons at the segregated worship services at the Church of Christ he had attended. A federal appeals court in 2011 overturned the district court ruling that the observance was unconstitutional, making the challenge unsuccessful.

He also served periodically on the FFRF executive council, as the governing board was originally known. He tested many of the recipes appearing in FFRF’s “World Famous Atheist Cookbook,” and several of his recipes are included in it.

He died of brain cancer at age 84 after being diagnosed seven months earlier and chose cremation with burial of ashes in a family plot, with no funeral or memorial service. (D. 2011)

Freedom From Religion Foundation