Holy Hubert Lindsey, Preacher


Holy Hubert Lindsey, Preacher

Sproul Plaza

Sproul Plaza is hallowed ground for Mario Savio and the Free Speech Movement, but the FSM can’t claim a monopoly on Sproul Plaza: Hubert Lindsey preached fire and brimstone at and near UC’s Sproul Plaza from the mid 1960s until the mid 1970s. “Holy Hubert” was an ordained Southern Baptist minister. In Berkeley, he was a street or open-air preacher whose energy and quirky personality established him as a Berkeley fixture, a true son of Sproul Plaza.

When talking about his life, Lindsey’s relationship with the truth was casual. The stories that swirled around him added to his mystique, true or not. He claimed to have been the original Alfalfa in silent “Our Gang” shorts, but this claim has been largely debunked. In Berkeley, he claimed to be friends with Mario Savio (“The most level-headed radical I’ve ever met”), Yippie leaders Jerry Rubin and Stew Albert, Peter Camejo of the Socialist Workers Party, and Berkeley Barb publisher Max Scherr. He claims that in May 1969 he tried to warn James Rector to stay away from the People’s Park demonstrations, and that Rector’s failure to heed his warning cost Rector his life. In 1977, Lindsey told the press that he was on the death list of the Symbionese Liberation Army.

Lindsey was fascinated by the counterculture, and he advertised in the Barb with a simple sentence: “If you have problems and need help, call Hubert Lindsey.” Whatever the truth in his claims of being friends with famous radicals, the Left tolerated Hubert, even admired him for his outsider status. Articles in the Barb about Lindsey were sympathetic, and the story reporting on his return from a national campus tour was simply “Hail Hubert!”

Lindsey’s faith and politics were largely traditional. He railed against homosexuality and was particularly scornful of Cesar Chavez and the grape strike in Delano. Although he opposed the war in Vietnam, Lindsey did not support demonstrations against the war, but instead urged individual spiritual revolutions.

Lindsey was confrontational, even combative, humorous, and relentless in his preaching. His signature line was “Bless your dirty heart,” a phrase which he used as the title of a 1973 autobiography. He claimed to have converted thousands of Berkeley students to his brand of Christianity and he saw the University as largely Christian by the mid 1970s.

Contributed by Tom Dalzell, 2014

  • Holy Hubert book cover (1973)

Photo credit abbreviations:
BAHA: Berkeley Architectural Heritage Assn.
BHS: Berkeley Historical Society