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George Went Hensley
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Religious Figure
    (May 2, 1881-July 25, 1955)
    Born in Scott County, Virginia
    Pentecostal minister
    Popularized snake handling
    He was illiterate.
    He was married four times, divorced three times.
    His first three wives cited his heavy drinking, frequent travels, and inability to earn a steady income as grounds for divorce.
    Among the activities he declared sinful were wearing lipstick and playing baseball.
    He also condemned alcohol consumption, but he was arrested for moonshining during Prohibition (1923).
    He was often credited with starting snake handling, but others had practiced it before him. (His children speculated that he had been inspired by a childhood memory of witnessing an elderly woman handling snakes during a camp revival meeting.)
    When a congregation member at one of his tent meetings was bitten, he predicted a miraculous recovery, but the man died (April, 1936).
    At his final service, he was bitten by a five-foot rattlesnake, refused medical treatment, and died the next morning.
    He was charismatic enough to convince congregations to hold poisonous snakes.
    After one snake handling-related arrest in Chattanooga, Tennessee, he was released after his followers intervened with authorities (1945).
    He reportedly survived over 400 snake bites.
    He also survived drinking strychnine and battery acid during services.

Credit: C. Fishel

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