Madalyn Murray-O'Hair

American atheist leader Madalyn Murray O'Hair, b. Madalyn Mays, Pittsburgh, Pa., Apr. 13, 1919, gained national attention in the early 1960s when she brought a legal suit against the Baltimore, Md., school board for a rule requiring her son to participate in Bible reading in junior high school. Taken to the U.S. Supreme Court, Murray v. Curlett (considered along with a similar case resulted (1963) in an 8-1 vote in its favor. It reaffirmed the Court's 1962 Engel v. Vitale decision, which held that prayer in public schools violated the First Amendment's prohibition on establishing a religion. O'Hair, a lawyer and social worker, founded the American Atheist Center in Austin, Tex., and was its director from 1965 to 1977. In 1995 she and two family members were reported to have disappeared.


Wright, Lawrence, Saints and Sinners (1993).

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