Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Coughlin, Father Charles

Charles Edward Coughlin was born on Oct. 25, 1891, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Coughlin graduated from the University of Toronto in 1911, then attended St. Basil's Seminary in Toronto, and was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1916. From 1916 to 1923, Coughlin was on the faculty at Assumption College in Sandwich (now Windsor), Ontario. He moved across the river to Detroit and worked in several parishes before he was given the opportunity in 1926 to establish a new parish in Royal Oak, Michigan—the Shrine of the Little Flower.

Coughlin’s reputation as an orator was well-established and radio station WJR began broadcasting his weekly sermons in 1926. His broadcasts became increasingly political, with his initial support of Franklin Roosevelt as presidential candidate and advocacy of compassionate capitalism – a popular sentiment as the nation fell into the Great Depression. His broadcasts were eventually syndicated nationally and heard by 30 million people. Known as the “Radio Priest,” Coughlin transformed into a political force, attacking “godless communism,” the New Deal, labor unions and the international banking community. He became one of Roosevelt’s harshest critics despite his initial support.

By the late 1930s, his increasingly combative rhetoric, much of which was anti-Semitic and pro-fascist, drew critics. As a result, new government regulations on radio, and new standards from the National Association of Broadcasters, likely aimed directly at Coughlin, effectively forced him off the air in 1939. He continued to publish his newspaper, Social Justice, until pressure from the Roosevelt administration and religious leadership limited his duties to tending to his parish.

He remained pastor at the shrine until his retirement in 1966. He died in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan on October 27,1979 and is buried in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Southfield, Michigan.



Coughlin Newspaper Article, 1939

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