The late Tammy Faye Bakker Messner and then-husband television evangelist Jim Bakker built a multimillion-dollar evangelism empire and then saw it collapse in disgrace. (Lou Krasky/AP)

March 19, 1987 On this day, television evangelist Jim Bakker stepped down from his PTL ministry, which he built into a $129 million enterprise that included both a broadcast network and a 2,300-acre retreat in Fort Mill, S.C. He and his first wife, Tammy Faye Bakker, got their start working for Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, contributing to the success of one of its longest-running programs, “The 700 Club.” They went on to start PTL — short for “People That Love” as well as “Praise the Lord,” writer Lloyd Grove noted in a March 21, 1987, story in The Washington Post. But Jim Bakker lost control of his empire after allegations that he drugged and raped a church secretary and then paid her more than $100,000 to keep quiet about the incident. (Bakker has denied raping her.) In 1988, the Charlotte Observer won a Pulitzer Prize for its exposés on PTL’s finances. In 1989, Jim Bakker was convicted on federal fraud charges and ultimately served almost five years in prison. The Bakkers divorced in 1992. Tammy Faye Bakker remarried. On “The PTL Show,” she displayed compassion for AIDS patients and later became a gay icon. She died in 2007 of cancer. Jim Bakker also remarried and now pitches survival food for the end of days.

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