How Did Pro-Life Andy Anderson
Become The Particular Man He Is?

  by Steve Miller
  copyright 1996, Electric Nevada

Reno's Pro-Life Andy Anderson -- as the first part of this two-part series reported -- is a man so earnest for his cause that nine years ago he legally changed his name, and so ardent for that cause, he had tattooed on the back of his hands the words "God is Pro Life."
If you want to begin to understand his earnestness and ardency -- which have brought him warm hand-addressed cards and letters from Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, and the Pope's secretary, in behalf of the Pontiff -- it helps if you go back in time, almost 70 years.
Back to the early part of 1927, when the father he would never know deserted his mother, his older brother and himself -- before he was even born.
Then to 1930-31, when his mother died young, leaving him, a three-year-old, and his six-year-old brother wards of his grandmother and grandfather in Savannah, Georgia.
And then to 1932, when the grandfather also died, leaving the widowed, poor, grandmother to rear the boys alone.
You also need consider what else fate had in store for the youngest Anderson boy, then named "Charles F. Anderson. "
One eye never developed. It not only gave him blurry, deficient, vision, but its muscles were wayward. It was an eye, he says, that "used to play hide and seek behind my nose."
The other kids, naturally, called him "cross-eyes."
And there were his ears -- large and sticking prominently out from the sides of his head. So he was also called "Dumbo the elephant."
Finally, there was the general cast of his other features, some of which would lead people to suspect Indian blood, or something that -- in Savanna, Georgia -- could have been seen as even worse.
A cross-eyed, Dumbo-eared, no-father, no-mother little boy who didn't look quite 'white,' growing up amid the attitudes of the deep South in the 1930s and '40s.
But what may be most interesting about all these factoids, is simply that someone else has to assemble them -- out of bits and pieces to be found in Anderson's narratives regarding other topics, and other, later, times in his life.
Because Pro-Life Andy Anderson doesn't see his early life in these terms. He sees it, now, in the context of an immense and amazing good fortune, given from the hand of a beneficent God.
"I've got a lot to be grateful for," is a sentence that recurs often in his speech. Another is, "God amazes me."
For example, led by his older brother, and out of the sight of Anderson's aging grandmother, as a boy he started getting in trouble early.
"I was a juvenile delinquent growing up," says Anderson, adding that often he would get caught, while his brother, who had put him up to it, would not.
Eventually he was being interned, he says, in Savannah's equivalent of Reno's Wittenberg Hall. But about the third time he was in what he calls "juvenile jail," something fateful happened.
"A friend of mine -- I don't know who she knew or what the system was -- had me transferred to a Catholic orphanage, 'cause she was afraid the 'big boys' would teach me to be worse than I already was.
"And I was on the way. I was learning things that I wouldn't want to even repeat now."
Anderson explains that his religious background, up to then, had been motley: his mother had been a Baptist, his grandmother was an Episcopalian, and the two boys, for some reason, had attended services with the Presbyterians.
"So when I went to the Catholic orphanage," he says, "I learned about the Catholic religion, and I didn't give up anything good and true that I had, I just added on to what I had.
"I was very fortunate that being a bad boy [had put] me into good company."
If he hadn't been put the home -- St. Joseph's Orphanage, in Wassaw, Georgia, outside of Savannah -- says Anderson, he probably would be in prison by now.
"Because the nuns taught me love and kindness and told me that 'No matter of what the world says about you, or thinks about you, God loves you.' So, I might be the homeliest person in the world, but it's what I am on the inside that counts."
The nuns' words -- and actions -- fell like rain on a dry, parched plain.
Because the homely young Anderson -- before being placed in St. Joseph's -- had been developing attitudes toward his fellow man that Americans in the 1990s have come to see all too often.
Since "coloreds" were required to sit in the back of Savannah buses, for example, Anderson would get aboard a bus and seat himself in the very last row still unoccupied, in front of any blacks already seated on the bus.
Because colored people weren't allowed to sit in front of whites, any blacks who now got on the bus had to stand, holding the strap.
It was a malevolent, petty thing for the homely boy to do. But it was the kind of "satisfactions" he was exploring at the time. Looking up at the standing blacks, he will tell you now, he would silently gloat in the sense of power and control that discomforting others was giving him.
So for the boy who now found himself in the orphanage, hearing that for even "the homeliest person in the world" it's "what I am on the inside that counts," was a saving message in more ways than one. And the clincher was the caring way the nuns treated him.
So it was then that Anderson began to take religion seriously. He was just 11 years old.
The first event that really put him on the anti-abortion path, he says, was a couple of years later. Becoming a teenager, he was transferred to a Catholic vocational school back in Savannah, his hometown.

"I got into some books there, and I read about this woman called Margaret Sanger. The word 'abortion' didn't even exist in my vocabulary back then, but this woman wanted to have birth control to get rid of the Jews, the Italian immigrants and the Negroes, which she said were 'the weeds on the face of the earth.'"
Anderson, by that time, had received instruction in Catholic birth control doctrine, of course, but Sanger's eugenics ideology, he says, came as a personal shock.
It seemed something leveled directly against his very own existence. Not only did he look like an eugenicist's case argument, but fate had essentially left him to grow up like a weed.
"There was something about this woman that just scared me -- she was so evil in her plans," he says today, pointing out that Margaret Sanger, who went on to found the Planned Parenthood organization for similar reasons, also advocated various Hitlerian doctrines, such as sterilizing "genetically inferior races," segregating "morons, misfits and [the] maladjusted," and rehabilitative concentration camps for inferior Blacks, Hispanics, poor whites and Catholics.
So at about 13 or 14 years of age, Anderson felt called upon to write out one of his first rhymes, the name of which was Birth Control:
There's a woman whose name is Margaret Sanger.
What she does is a shame; I think we should hang her; ("I had to make it rhyme, anyway," he says.) She's killing our nation with her birth-control plan;
To stop procreation every day that she can;
The way thing's are going, she's doing her job well;
If her plans keep going, things will soon be pell-mell;
It should be unlawful for her and her gabies
To set us off of having any babies.
Where would our nation be if babies were not born;
Chop the family tree and we will be forlorn.

"I hadn't even had a date with a girl yet," says Anderson, "and I'm writing something like this."
It was "because there was something about her that impressed me that if she would succeed, a children-less future would really happen."
The whole issue hit him almost like a prophetic call, he says, and he wasn't even, at that time, "aware of the monstrosity of the abortion part."
"I thought it was just a matter of keeping babies from being conceived in the first place -- what we call 'birth control.' Then later, they came out with the abortion business, because, she said, it was too early to talk about abortion 'cause that would scare people away."
When World War II broke out, Anderson was in the Catholic orphanage; two years later he was allowed to go back home to live.
He got a part time job at a grocery store, went to school, and helped take care of his grandmother, who was living on a pension.
When he was 17, wanting to follow his older brother into the war, Anderson lied about his age and tried to volunteer for the draft.
However, he failed his eye test.
Then, as soon as he really did turn 18, he registered for the draft a second time, and was turned down once more.
"So that was in '44," says Anderson. "I was still going to high school -- a commercial high school, to learn how to use a typewriter and stuff like that."
But he still wanted to join up, and so soon Anderson was again talking to people on the draft board .
"I said, 'Look, the war's over, [it was then 1945] and I can relieve somebody else, even if I sit behind a desk and all.
"So they made arrangements for me to report for the third time to Fort McPherson, Georgia, to take my physical.
"I was so sure that this time I was going to get in because, why would they send me when I had been turned down two times before?
"I quit school, I quit my part-time job, I told my friends goodbye, and ... went to Fort McPherson, in Atlanta, Georgia, and for the third time I took the physical.
"They turned me down for the third time. I was devastated.
"I said, 'Dear Lord, what am I gonna do?' I mean, the Lord's got a sense of humor -- he likes to kind of play with us for a while.
"So they gave me my train ticket to go back to Savannah, Ga., from Atlanta. But I didn't use it. I stayed in the barracks overnight, and slept in one of the empty bunks there.
"I said, 'I've got to see someone, I've got to do something. I can't go back.'
Anderson went over to the chapel.
"And I knelt down, in front of our Lord, and his blessed mother, and I had tears streaming on my face."
He prayed to God, says Anderson, that "if for some reason or another it's going to bad for my soul, no matter how much I want to get in, don't let me get in." Finally, in assent to whatever God's will turned out to be, he ended the prayer.
"So I went ahead and wiped my eyes and got up and left the chapel," he says.
"And I got out the door and I was in a little hallway and I hear a voice say, 'What's the matter, young man?'
"And I turned to my right where this door was open, and there [was] a chaplain sitting behind his desk, and I guess he saw me being
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this upset. So I went ahead and told him."
The chaplain wrote something on a piece of paper, put it in an envelope, and said, "Take this over to Personnel."
"I said 'Okay," and I kind of trudge into the personnel section and hand it to the guy behind the counter.
"He goes out of sight and comes back with what they call a '201 file,' a great big brown file that had on it the name: 'Anderson -- Rejected.'
"He took a crayon or something and lined out the word 'Rejected' and stamped on there, 'Accepted.'
"I was in!"
Two days later, Anderson -when asked if he wanted to -- volunteered for the Army Air Corps.
"So I was discharged from the Army after two days and re-enlisted in the Army Air Corps, [which later] became the Air Force."
By then it was March of 1946. Anderson would serve the next 20 years in the Air Force, working usually as either a chaplain's assistant or a personnel clerk. He was twice given the commendation medal twice for his work in personnel administration.
If gratitude to the nuns who taught him love helped make Anderson a life-long Catholic, gratitude to the Air Force helped make him a career man.
That problem eye and the Dumbo ears were, again, what started it.
At the time, between 1947 and 1949, Anderson was in Hawaii, in his first overseas assignment. Because of headaches, he'd gone in to see an Air Force doctor, a "Dr. King."
"I was just joking around about my eye, and I kept looking down, and it kind of disturbed him that I wouldn't look him straight in the eye.
"Well, I was self-conscious; I didn't like people staring at my crossed-eye. So [Dr. King] made arrangements to operate on my left eye.
"He said, 'I can't help your vision, but you won't be so self-conscious about it.' So he did pull the muscle over and straightened the eye out.
"So I was joking and said, 'Gee, how about my ears, ya know?'
"Sure enough," says Anderson, "he made arrangements with a plastic surgeon and had the ears pinned back.
"So out of gratitude, more than anything else, I stayed in the military for 20 years -- just to pay them back, for being so good to me. Because being an orphan and ... with a grandmother who was a widow, I'd never have been able to afford it."
The final chapter in creating the Pro-Life Andy Anderson people in Reno know today -- sort of a rapid-fire-versifying, cowboy-hatted version of an Old Testament prophet -- began in 1964.
That was when Anderson married a Boston widow with a 9-year-old son. It was two years before Anderson was to complete his 20-year Air Force career.
"In the service I had joined a Catholic correspondence club and met a Catholic girl by mail," he says. "When I was stationed in North Dakota and she lived in Massachusetts, we sent pictures to each other and everything."
Anderson eventually took a furlough to go meet her and her family, and, he says, ultimately fell in love.
It was in 1969 that the new family moved to Reno. However, just six years later, in 1975, Anderson's wife had a stroke.
Suddenly she was unable to walk or talk. For the next eight and a half years, until her death in 1984, Anderson would take care of his helpless wife.
But 1975 was a watershed year in two other respects also. It was the year Anderson learned about the new reality in America -- and Reno -- of abortions. It was also the year the entire subject became personal.
"I was reading the paper," says Pro-Life, "and it said something about some people were having a protest in front of a local abortion mill. And I said, 'Well, what do they mean by that?'"
At the time, he says, the word 'abortion' meant the same to him as a miscarriage.
When he was told, "Oh, that's where they kill babies," he didn't believe it.
"I couldn't comprehend it," says Anderson. "So I went down to the abortion mill on Mill Street -- when it was located there -- and about 20-22 people were marching up and down in front.
"So I figured, well, if they're killing babies in that building, I'll join these people. Well, I just got in this little formation and walking up and down with one of these signs, and some guy came up and handed me a brochure and it says 'Life or Death.' And it showed pictures of babies who were actually killed by an abortion -- by insulin, by curettage, by GNC. And I said, 'My God, those are real babies. That's not a blob of tissue. You could see heads and legs.'
"So when I saw these pictures, it hit me like a sledgehammer and I knew what abortion really was. I just rebelled against it naturally.
"Because that could have been me, if they'd had it legal back when my father deserted my mother. So, just as I objected to that birth control woman, Margaret Sanger, just on the principle of preventing my conception in the first place, it was even more horrible to me to think of killing babies after they'd already been conceived."
Relatively speaking, however, Anderson says he was still "more or less objective" on the issue.
"I wasn't too active. I was taking care of my wife."
That was soon to change.
"And then my stepson had gotten involved with a girl, and he came to me one day and wanted to borrow the money to get an abortion for his girl friend.
"It was like he hit me in the face with a sledge hammer. I said, 'What do you mean, give you money for an abortion? I'm not going to give you any money to kill a baby. And I didn't order him out of the house, I just said, 'I can't face you with something like that.'
"What made me feel even more guilty was, I had given him a truck and a chainsaw to learn to be independent and cut firewood so he could learn to take care of himself.
"And he used that as the collateral to borrow the money to get the abortion for his girl friend."
Pro-Life Andy Anderson is choking up, eyes starting to glisten, in his distress.
"What happened was that he had given ...
"What happened was ... one of his girl friend's girl friends had driven her over to Oakland, California to the abortion mill there...
"I got the phone number of the abortion mill she was in [and] got hold of her on the telephone -- I won't use her real name -- let's say..
"Betty, please.. I'll adopt the baby, I'll give you and my son a free home... Anything. Just get out of there, please.
"At the time, my wife was in the bedroom with her stroke. I had an extension on my phone, so I was in the kitchen. I got on my knees in the kitchen, and said 'Dear God, please, don't let me be too late.
"Anyway, she couldn't even talk straight. They had her so doped up. She said "Iii donnn't knowww. They gave me something and I can hardly stand up...
"I said, 'I don't care, call a cab, get out of there. I made arrangements for you at a hospital over in San Francisco.. and just go over there and tell the pastor I'm going to take care of you until everything is accomplished.
"She said, 'Iii donnn't knowww. I think it's too late' or something and she hung up.
"She went through with the abortion, and I can't prove it was suicide, but not too long afterwards, she killed herself in a single car accident out on the highway. Only 20 years old, in 1979.
"Not only did I lose a future grandchild, but I lost a future daughter-in-law.
"I said, 'Dear God, what can I do." I felt like I was a failure in my own family. I couldn't even protect my own unborn grandchild. What can I do to help others?
"So I said, 'Dear God, use me -- any way you see fit. I don't care, I'll crawl on my knees through the middle of town.
"It was just a sort of expression," says Anderson, laughing. But it soon seemed that was exactly what God wanted.
"So I put a notice in the paper, in January, on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, that Andy Anderson is going to crawl on his knees from the Pioneer Theater down Mills Street, past the local abortion mill, all the way to Washoe Med, as an act of atonement asking God to have mercy on our country and to beg people to stop killing their babies ...

"So.. I did .. and [laughing] it was winter-time, and there's still ice and snow on the sidewalk ... and I don't know what I'd got myself into, and if I'd known ahead of time, I probably would have chickened out, you might say. So I went ahead and I crawled on my knees all the way.
"I was carrying an anti-abortion sign which I could use as a sort of a support, so I wouldn't fall down flat on my face...and as soon as I got there I just collapsed.
"My knees were sore for a month after that. I still have scars, because I did it again, about three years later."
Rolling up his pant leg, he points to his knee and shows where the skin broke open.
"But it made people stop. And I said, 'If only one life is saved, it's worth it." Personally, Anderson also felt it might help atone for the loss of his own unborn grandchild.
So that was when Anderson began to develop what he now calls his 'persona.' -- the panoply of black and red costumery, crucified baby dolls, signs covered with anti-abortion doggerel, old cars with nearly every square inch covered with bumper stickers, garish ads in the newspapers and Calvary-flavored media events, that Reno has come to know over the last 20 years.
Today Pro-Life Anderson is 69 years old, and -- knowing his life could come to an end at any moment -- is trying to get his affairs in order.
Because his older brother died a year ago January, from lung cancer, Pro-Life knows that he could follow at any time. He is making arrangements so that, when that happens, he will buried back in Georgia, next to his brother and his mother.
That is the mother who died about 65 years ago, when Anderson was just three. Of her, he has only one memory. It is archetypal.

"I was in a nursery, and remember this old model T Ford, with my grandfather behind the wheel...
"And I can just remember coming out of the building...
... and going down the sidewalk, and my mother's arms are open like that.." -- he demonstrates --
"..and I'm just going to my mother's arms,
...and they're open..."

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