Harold Camping will long be associated with the failed predictions of the end of the word. But who is this man responsible for the multimillion dollar campaign declaring May 21 as Judgment Day?
He was born by the name of Harold Egbert Camping in 1921 in Boulder, Colo. At an early age, he moved to California where his interest in math and science developed, later taking him to University of California Berkeley during World War II, where he received a B.S. degree in Civil Engineering.
Shortly after the end of World War II, he began his own construction business where he was able to earn his own living.
In 1943, he married his wife Shirley with whom he had seven children. During their early years they were congregants at First Christian Reformed Church of Alameda where he shined as the most popular Bible studies teacher.
He had become a self-taught Bible instructor for his students. His charisma and eye for biblical details helped him gain popularity among his students and the church.
From 1954, he became the owner of Camping Construction Company, and by 1958 he and two others formed the non-profit ministry of Family Stations, Inc. in San Francisco.
Family Radio was the ministry’s Christian educational network and it expanded over the decades as it broadcast teachings, Bible readings as well as Christian music such as southern gospel music across the country. Some stations chose to play contemporary Christian music.
When he was in his 40s, he began hosting his own Open Forum program during the weekends, which still continues to be broadcast on more than 140 stations in the U.S.
In 1973, he sold his business and became a full-time volunteer employer of Family Radio where he served as the president and general manager of the stations.
The network is reportedly now worth more than $120 million and has 66 stations throughout the country. The network's broadcasts can reach as far as Nigeria and are available in 61 languages online.
In 1970, Camping published the Biblical Calendar History, where he proclaimed that the creations of the world happened in 11,013 BC and Noah’s flood, 4990 BC.
While 1988 became a popular doomsday year due to a book written by Edgar Whisenant, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Could be in 1988, Camping began to proclaim the world’s impending end during his radio program as well in his Bible class.
Camping didn’t agree with Whisenant’s end of the word date but he didn't yet provide his own prediction.
Due to his persistence on the end of the world, his church elders told him to cease all prophesying about the apocalypse. He, his family and 110 members decided to leave the church, according to The Huffington Post.
In 1992, he published his book 1994? where he predicted that the world would end, though he wasn’t certain about the year; he was only certain that it would happen sometime soon.
In 1994, his followers gathered inside Alameda’s Veterans’ Memorial Building to wait for the return of Christ. People dressed themselves in their Sunday best and held their Bibles open faced towards heaven.
But nothing happened.
Camping said that was just a “preliminary study,” hence the question mark in the title of the book, and he spent the next decade completing that study.
In 2002, he announced the end of the church age and claimed that God was no longer blessing and using local churches because of their apostasy and that believers should quit the church. Three years later, he published Time Has an End where he officially began proclaiming that he had recalculated the rapture date to be May 21, 2011.
According to his prediction, around 200 million people will be raptured at 6 p.m. that day and the rest will suffer for five months until Oct. 21, making it the definitive date for complete world obliteration.
Currently, among his family members, only his wife of 68 years believes him and none of his six living children, 28 grandchildren and 38 great grandchildren believe in his theories.