Don Wildmon, founder of the American Family Association, on Wednesday announced that he has resigned as chairman of the pro-family activist group.
After heading AFA for more than 30 years, Wildmon decided to step down from the leadership role because of health reasons. He spent extensive amount of time in the hospital over the past few months after he was bitten by a mosquito carrying the encephalitis virus.
Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain and usually produces flu-like symptoms. But in more severe cases it can cause confusion and hallucinations, double vision, seizures, muscle weakness, and loss of consciousness.
Wildmon, 72, spent 121 days in the hospital and rehab from August to November last year, according to AFA. In addition to recovering from encephalitis, Wildmon also underwent surgery for cancer on his left eye.
He said he plans to continue to work at AFA but will not take on a leadership role.
Wildmon began the conservative American Family Association in 1977 in the dining room of his home in Tupelo, Miss. The original name of the group was National Federation for Decency and its activities included battling against sexual content and violence on television and in magazines. As a result of its boycott campaigns, several large convenience and drugstore chains removed Playboy, Penthouse and other adult magazines from their shelves.
The group, which changed its name to AFA in 1988, has also protested PepsiCo for promoting the homosexual agenda and Gap Inc. for censoring the word Christmas in its advertisement. After an AFA boycott call, the latter company released an Old Navy commercial in which one of the characters sent a Christmas greeting to viewers.
Wildmon is considered to be one of the major Christian right figures in America. In recent years, however, the Christian right leaders of his generation have almost all stepped down from office or have passed away.
Dr. James Dobson, resigned as chairman of Focus on the Family last year; Dr. D. James Kennedy, founder of Coral Ride Ministries, died in 2007; and the Rev. Jerry Falwell, Sr., founder of Liberty University also died in 2007.
With Wildmon's resignation, another "old guard" of the Christian right has left the stage. His son, Tim, is expected to lead the pro-family group.
AFA owns and operates 180 radio stations, has a monthly magazine and a staff of 175 employees. The group operates on a $20 million annual budget.