History of the Restoration Movement

William Franklin Rugg


Photo Source: Allie Griffith Nelson, Find-A-Grave

The Life of William F. Rugg

William Franklin Rugg was born in Holdrege, Phelps County, Nebraska, on January 27, 1890. He was the son of George H. Rugg (1860-1914) and Leither Wyatt Rugg Johnson (1870-1951). He was the eldest of three siblings, Bernice Helen Rugg (1901-1901), George Weldon Rugg (1902-1961), and Byron Fredrick Rugg (1906-1984).

After his father died in 1914, the family moved to California. During World War I, he served in the diplomatic and consular service under President Wilson in South America.

After the war, William thrived. He attended at least two different colleges in the Los Angeles area, studying law. Passing the Bar exam, he became an attorney. Police work interested him, and he soon became a police officer in Los Angeles.

In December 1927, he was involved in a controversial departure from the police force. According to a news report, “The discharge  . . . was based on charges of violation of police regulations which forbid a policeman from accepting compensation from any other occupation." The young, educated officer, had become an “instructor in public speaking and dramatic art at a school for prospective motion picture actors.” (Modesto News Herald, 12.07.1927, p.1) See the full report below.

He married Elizabeth Janet Frazer (1897-1971) on August 4, 1926, in Los Angeles, California. Janet was born in Missouri and had moved to California, where they met. The couple had one son, Paul Gates Rugg (1917-1985).

William soon entered the field of prison ministry. At that time, he was associated with a Full-Gospel Church in Los Angeles, a pentecostal denomination. In a short time, he was invited to promote prison ministry in other denominations. He also developed an organization called the Alliance of Prison Missions.

In a short time, William became known far and wide for his ability for public speaking, relating stories from his time as a police officer. His abilities to tell stories about police raids in L.A. and Hollywood mixed with the “gospel of Jesus” led him to be in high demand. He was known as the preaching policeman, often advertised in newspapers with photos of himself in a policeman’s uniform. Heading the National Alliance of Prisons Missions, he traveled all over the country to preach. Many denominations were packed full when advertising that William F. Rugg was coming to town. Sometime around May of 1837, he was invited to preach on his prison ministry at a Christian church in South Bend, Indiana. It is believed that this was his introduction to the Restoration Movement.

He continued to be associated with the Full Gospel / FourFold Gospel church (sometimes called Foursquare Church) for a time, but as he had the opportunities during the 1930s to preach for other Disciples churches, he became more and more interested in their approach.

During World War II, he entered the Army Air Corps, where he “ministered as a psycho-therapist to the prisoners in various of the Army’s disciplinary barracks.” (The Daily Reporter, Greenfield, Indiana, 06.14.150. p.1)

In the summer of 1950, it was announced that William F. Rugg was to become the “pastor” of the Little Sugar Creek Christian Church in Brandywine Township, Indiana. (Ibid. See the full article below). While in the region, Janet attended the University of Chicago where she finished her doctorate.

In 1955, Janet was invited to join the teaching staff of Milligan College near Johnson City, Tennessee. It seemed a good time for William to retire from full-time preaching work. The couple was in East Tennessee for only a couple of years, when on Friday, June 21, 1957, William was found dead in his bed. The coroner discerned that he had a heart attack in the night. A funeral followed on the campus of Milligan College, with President Dean Walker and Rev. Arthur Edwards presiding. Interment followed in the cemetery on the campus.

Janet continued teaching in the English Department until she retired in 1966. She moved to Elizabethton but continued to connect with Milligan and the Hopwood Christian church there. One report of her death explained that she was "an ordained minister and organist at Hopwood Christian Church." (The Knoxville News-Sentinal, 11.09.1971, p.4), She passed away on Sunday, November 7, 1971, and was buried next to her husband in the Milligan Cemetery.

-Scott Harp, 11.30.2022

W. F. Rugg Dismissed From Los Angeles Police Department

Modesto News Herald, Modesto, California,
Wednesday, December 7, 1927, p.1

Advertisement of Preaching by W. F. Rugg

Burbank Daily Evening Review, Burbank, California
Saturday, December 3, 1932, p.6

William F. Rugg, Evangelist

Wilmington Daily Press Journal, Wilmington, California
Friday, January 11, 1935, p.3

Know Rugg For Prison Missions

The South Bend Tribune, South Bend, Indiana
Thursday, April 29, 1937, p.23

Revival By William F. Rugg

The Rhinelander Daily News, Rhineland, Wisconsin
Friday, November 12, 1937, p.3

Police Officer To Relate Life Story

The Daily Times, Davenport, Iowa
Saturday, May 14, 1938, p.19

Notice of Marriage of Gates Rugg and wife by R. Anderson Jardine

The Windsor Star, Windsor, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, August 31, 1938, p.2

Evangelistic Work of William Rugg

The Oshkosh Northwestern, Oshkosh, Wisconsin
Tuesday, September 13, 1938, p.4
(click on article to zoom in)

Policeman-Evangelist Speaks

The Galion Inquirer, Galion, Ohio
Saturday, November 5, 1938, p.4

Speaking Engagement

Wausau Daily Herald, Wausau, Wisconsin
Saturday, November 19, 1938, p.10

R. Anderson Jardine, A Friend Of William And Janet Rugg

The Southwest Wave, Los Angeles, California
Friday, May 19, 1939, p.1

Dr. W. F. Rugg Becomes Pastor

The Daily Reporter, Greenfield, Indiana
Wednesday, June 14, 1950, p.1
(Click Article to Zoom in)

Dr. E. Janet Rugg Comes To Milligan College

Johnson City Press Chronicle, Johnson City, Tennessee
Sunday, August 28, 1955, p.3
(Click article to zoom in)

Notice of the Passing of W. F. Rugg

Johnson City Press Chronicle, Johnson City, Tennessee
Saturday, June 22, 1957, p.2

Obituary For W. F. Rugg

Johnson City Press Chronicle, Johnson City, Tennessee
Sunday, June 23, 1957, p.2

Obituary for Dr. Elizabeth Janet Rugg

Johnson City Press Chronicle, Johnson City, Tennessee
Tuesday, November 9, 1971, p.2

The Knoxville News Sentinel, Knoxville, Tennessee
Tuesday, November 9, 1971

Obituary For W. F. Rugg

Transcription - See Source Below

The Rev. Willlam F. Rugg, 67, well known evangelists, of the Christian Church, died at his home in Pinecrest, early Friday morning, after a long illness.

He served in the evangelistic field for a number of years and was well known throughout his church. He also served two pastorates in California, and was pastor of the Garfield Park Christian Church in Indianapolis, Ind. Prior to entering the ministry he was an actor as well as a director in the motion picture industry.

He served in World War I in Naval Aviation, and was a civilian employee of the government. during World War IL.

He was a member of the American Legion, VFW, and the Masons. He was a member of the Dashiel Lodge, F and AM, of Elizabethton, a member of the Indianapolis chapter, Watauga Commandrey, Johnson City, and the Murat Shrine Temple, of Indianapolis.

He was a native of Nebraska, and lived in California for a number of years. He has been a resident of this area for the past two years.

Surviving are his wife, Mrs. Janet Rugg, of the home, who is a member of the faculty of Milligan College, one son, Paul, Burbank, Callf., two brothers: George W Rugg, Glendale, Call., and Bryon Rugg, Anaheim, Calif He is also survived by three grandchildren.

The Morris Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

Elizabethton Star, Elizabethton, Tennessee, June 23, 1957, p.3.

Directions To Grave

In East Tennessee, take I-24 and head south of Johnson City, Tennessee. Take Hwy. 359/Milligan Hwy. Enter the campus on Blowers Blvd. Take the 3rd right and park somewhere. Head toward the rear and you'll see Williams Cemetery Also known as Milligan College Cemetery. It is located between the Baker Faculty Office Center and the tennis courts.

GPS Location
36°17'53.6"N 82°17'43.5"W
or D.d. 36.298222,-82.295417

Elizabeth Janet Rugg
Photo Source:Jennifer Letterman Holtsclaw, Find-A-Grave

William Franklin Rugg

Photos Taken 04.19.2021
Webpage produced 12.30.2022
Courtesy Of Scott Harp

Special Recognition: C. Wayne Kilpatrick and Tom Childers traveled with your webeditor to East Tennessee to locate the final resting place of A. A. Ferguson. Many thanks to all. Some of the photos on this page were taken by Tom. Also, I should thank a kind lady whose name I can not recall who was visiting the cemetery the day we were there. She was most friendly and most helpful. She had grown up around the college and had been connected with someone in its faculty. When we arrived, we were only looking for the graves of Samuel Shelburne and A. A. Ferguson. When we told her what we were doing, she proceeded to show us a few other graves of special people in the cemetery. One was that of William F. Rugg and others—former presidents, teachers and dignitaries of Milligan College. So, many, many thanks to that kind lady.


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