Demagogues & Scalawags


Demagogues & Scalawags

 “5% of you are cultists, 5% of you are freaks,

and the rest of you…keep your mouths shut.” [1]

George P. McAndrews

It would be disingenuous to suggest all of chiropractic’s problems came from the AMA alone. In fact, mainstream chiropractic has fought wars on two fronts–the medical war on one front and an internal civil war between rational and radical chiropractors on the other.

On the extreme conservative end of the chiropractic spectrum were chiropractors who fueled the fire of public skepticism, the wrath of the AMA, and even the ire of the mainstream chiropractic profession. Foremost among this group in the first half of the twentieth century was BJ Palmer, and in the second half, was his protégé Sidney E. Williams.

These two iconoclastic leaders became the bane of mainstream chiropractors. Their radical politics, bizarre personal behavior, and grandiose hyperbole embarrassed and hindered the entire profession.  A former American Chiropractic Association  lobbyist would describe this radical branch as “the charlatans, hucksters, profiteers, and wild-eyed ‘philosophers’ who put their own selfish interests ahead of science and the ethical and professional demands that every true healer must shoulder.”[2]

This professional warfare with medicine was not only about a dramatically different philosophy of science or healing art. But the people who led chiropractic were often just as paradoxical and controversial themselves, starting with DD Palmer and his son, BJ, who began a civil war within chiropractic on one hand as they fought the medical foes with the other hand.

Damage from Friendly Fire

After DD Palmer spent 17 days in jail in 1906, he finally elected to pay the fine to be released only to discover he no longer owned his college. DD let himself be persuaded to transfer his interests to the name of BJ’s wife, Mabel. When DD was finally released, he was given a rude welcome home.

BJ met him at the door of the school and denied him entry. He was told he could not come into the building or for that matter the grounds. He was further advised he had no property interests there of any kind.[3]

Shortly thereafter, a divorce between DD and BJ Palmer resulted in DD selling the school of chiropractic, various books, and some specimens from the osteological collection to his son for $2,196.79. This schism would become well known in the profession when DD wrote of his dislike of his only son:

Little did I then think that BJ Palmer, my only son, would prove to be the sneak thief who would try to appropriate the credit of originality and would desire to rob his father of the honor justly due him. Little did I think then, that my only son would play the Judas, put me in prison, rob me financially and of credit justly due me. [4]

As soon as the sale of the school was finalized, DD went to the West Coast, where he helped to start chiropractic schools in California and Oregon.[5]

BJ continued to suppress DD’s claim to fame when his new book, The Chiropractor’s Adjuster, was released.

…all copies were quickly bought up and destroyed. You could not get a copy any place, at any price, after the first issue came out… the book wasn’t reprinted for half a century, some five years after BJ Palmer’s death.[6]

BJ’s myopic attitude toward education soon became a problem between him and his faculty:

And there was the developer’s well-known attitudes about college education. It was his father’s bias; and B.J., the 10th-grade drop-out, carried it with him throughout his career as head of the world’s largest chiropractic school … Palmer suggested that he’d rather train a plumber to be a chiropractor than a “college man,” because the latter required a de-medicalization of thinking before he could learn chiropractic. “Education equals constipation,” he insisted, and most colleges, he believed, filled their pupils with useless theories that ill-prepared them for the practical realities of modern life.[7]

BJ Palmer often defended the anti-intellectualism that permeated the chiropracTIC[8] faction with his infamous statement that “education constipates the mind.” Having never attended college himself, BJ’s cynicism became the mantra of his lineage of colleges begun by his philosophical ilk:

“Education constipates the mind. I would rather be a chiropractor with one simple principle and practice that works, and get people well, and be called ‘ignorant,’ than be a supra-educated medical man with millions of arbitrary and empiric theories, none of which work or get sick people well…[9]

In 1906, a faculty revolt occurred at the Palmer School of Chiropractic by members who disagreed with BJ’s dogmatic stance on limiting his curriculum to only spinal adjustments. Recall that neither DD nor BJ Palmer had any formal training in higher education, but unlike his father, BJ, a high school dropout, was renowned to have resentment toward formal education.

DD Palmer was offended that BJ who was only 14 years old in 1896 would try to supplant him as the Developer of chiropractic:

The only principle added by BJ Palmer was that of greed and graft, aspiring to be the discoverer, developer, founder and the fountain head of a science brought forth by his father while he was a lad in his teens[10]…Such trickery will not satisfy the public or the avariciousness of one who is “waiting just like a hungry wolf for a dinner.”[11]

There was a prevailing belief that the BJ vs. DD feud was so strong that it allegedly led BJ to kill his father after DD began teaching at a rival chiropractic college owned by Joy Loban. The Los Angeles Times reported DD’s death on Oct. 22, 1913, citing in its headline:

“Dead from Blow of Son’s Auto.

Accident in parade of national Convention at Davenport,                                   Enlivened by Alleged Jealousy between Two,                                                                     

Ends Fatally – Father Resented Loss of First Place in Line.”

Dr. Palmer was injured six weeks ago while attending the national convention of chiropractic, held in Davenport, Iowa, in September. The accident occurred during the parade of the convention members, Dr. Palmer being struck by the automobile driven by his son, Dr. BJ Palmer, who is the present head of the Davenport College of Chiropractic, the school founded by his father. Dr. Palmer was always very proud of the college, but owning to an estrangement between father and son, which occurred ten years ago, Dr. Palmer Sr. has of late years devoted himself to the Los Angeles college.

During the convention in Davenport last September, Dr. Palmer is said to have resented very bitterly the fact that his son had been assigned first place in the street parade and refused to ride in one of the automobiles following the one occupied by his son. While the parade was in progress the elder man stepped out in front of the line and was accidentally struck in the back by his son’s automobile. The shock proved too much for one of his age and he never regained his strength.

The controversy did not end at DD’s death when his estate filed a damage action for $50,000 against BJ Palmer. In addition to the civil action, a criminal action was brought against the defendant, the estate asking for an indictment against him on the ground of criminal negligence. Two grand juries heard this complaint, but dismissed it while threatening to conduct an investigation against the instigators hinting at personal prejudice as the motive for the action.[12]

This allegation has been refuted by historian JC Keating as a myth:

So why has this myth persisted so durably? Perhaps because BJ gave the profession so many other reasons to dislike him, and some of us cannot resist finding homicide credible? Yet logic and the available facts really do not support the perpetuation of this myth.[13]

 “Most Dangerous Man”

If Morris Fishbein was the leading medical autocrat in the first half of the twentieth century, BJ Palmer was his equivalent in chiropractic during the same era. Like Fishbein, BJ Palmer was a prolific writer and self-appointed spokesman for the profession. He was author of at least 28 books, most of them 800 to 900 pages long.  For 30 years he published a weekly newspaper for chiropractors “writing every word.”[14]

Most notably BJ wrote what is now considered his most scholarly work of his career, An Invisible Government (Published in 1917, The Universal Chiropractors Association, Davenport, Iowa) which offered a scathing indictment of the “medical trust” and its efforts to monopolize health care. “Maliciousness based on prejudice,” he suggested, was at the heart of the medical trust. [15]

BJ Palmer was also a strong advocate of advertising. He owned the first radio station WOC (Wonders of Chiropractic) in Davenport, Iowa, in 1910, which was the second oldest station in the United States and the radio station where future U.S. President Ronald Reagan got his start re-creating Chicago Cubs baseball games.[16] In 1930 Palmer bought WHO (With Hands Only) radio in Des Moines. In 1949 he began WOC-TV in Davenport and in 1954 WHO-TV. 

He also urged his followers to advertise in this poem:


When things ain’t going right with you, and you can’t make them gee;

When business matters look real blue, and you fear bankruptcy;

When cobwebs gather on your stock and customers are rare;

When all your assets are in hock, don’t cuss and tear your hair;

Just listen to our good advice and take it if you’re wise;

Take a course at The P.S.C. and then go advertise,

And advertise from morn to night; don’t overlook a day,

And soon you’ll see the world go bright, and things will come your way;

Invest in good publicity, and fortune you will greet,

And in a little while you’ll be ’way up on Easy street.[17]

According to historian Joseph Keating, PhD, BJ Palmer enjoyed responding to his critics. When the Illinois Medical Journal branded him “the most dangerous man in Iowa out of a prison cell” and as an “insane…paranoiac, a man whose irresponsibility is criminal,” BJ delighted in his infamy and responded with posters depicting himself in front of prison gates.[18]

He taunted them and turned the would-be negative publicity they heaped upon him to his advantage. He had built his “science with printer’s ink”, he declared, and would “buy it by the train load.” The “P.T. Barnum of Science” knew few limits in his capacity to spread the gospel of chiropractic and the legend of the Palmer School of Chiropractic (PSC).[19]

As far back as 1912 when BJ was only 30 years old and president of Palmer School of Chiropractic, his megalomania began to emerge, evoking a courageous call for reform by a rival chiropractic college president, CE Moyers, who was adamant that BJ was an enemy to chiropractic education and political progress:

“The question of legislation for Chiropractic is today the paramount issue, but the American Medical Trust is not our worst enemy in our fight for laws.  The worst enemy is the faker in the Chiropractic school business, and the prince of all of them is B.J. Palmer.  There is little doubt but what when you go before the legislature with a prayer for laws you will be met by your enemy with the advertising matter of the “Fountain Head”.  This same individual has done more to degrade the profession and Chiropractic than all other agents combined.”[20]

Criticism in 1917 by another college president, J.M. McLeese, DC, echoed similar animosity when he labeled BJ as the “Kaiser of Chiropractic”:

“…had Dr. Palmer been an educated medical man, the science would have been placed on a higher plane much sooner than it has…And the writer is positive that had the elder Dr. Palmer (as well as his son) a more liberal education in their early years of life, they would never have made the wild claims that they did for chiropractic, especially in the early years before the science had been really put on any sort of a scientific basis.”[21]

Palmer built his school and the profession by promoting “BJ Himself.”  This image from boxes of “The Chiropractor” brand of cigars shows a muscle bound BJ straddling the planet while the art, science, and philosophy radiate in multiple halos from his head.[22] Obviously BJ’s self concept was the center of his universe and chiropractic was the vehicle he used to display it.

Just as any leader has supporters and detractors, so did BJ who controlled this profession after the death of his father in 1913 until his own death in 1961 at the age of 79. Although BJ Palmer considered himself as the Developer of chiropractic and was regarded a virtual saint by many chiropracTORs[23], the medical profession hated him and many mainstream chiropractors also resented his autocratic nature.

Rule or Ruin

From the mainstream chiropractic perspective, he was the first demagogue to rule or ruin the profession as his autocratic management became known.  He burnt bridges with the mainstream, contributed to the eccentric image, and obstructed legislative progress in order to maintain his control of the profession.

Historian Pierre-Louis Gaucher-Peslherbe, DC, PhD, appraised BJ Palmer’s personality:

If one had to choose a word to describe BJ’s approach, it could only Messianism. Where the father sought to increase his knowledge in order to refine his techniques, the son was only interested in increasing his audience. If we add to this a compulsive need to dominate the audience he attracted, we have the key to BJ Palmer’s personality.[24]

He eventually lost in his attempt to rule, and the chiropractic profession lost as well by living in the ruins of the internal civil war he began that continues to this day supported by his philosophical protégés.

The largest conflicts between BJ and the progressive elements in chiropractic focused on two issues—improving education and broadening the scope of chiropractic practice—both opposed by BJ in the first half of the twentieth century and carried on by his protégés in the second half.

Not only did BJ keep his college in an intellectual grasp, he also kept a tight hold on the emerging politics of the profession. A letter circulated in 1919 by OC Clark characterized BJ’s obstructionist attitude:

It is a well known fact that Dr. B.J. Palmer has always been opposed to even the most  mild regulation of Chiropractic.  It is well understood he has killed more Chiropractic bills in legislation and has caused more trouble with various state boards where license is obtainable than any other man in the world.[25]

Another upstart chiropractic college was the Universal Chiropractic College in Davenport whose president WJ McCartney, DC, in 1922 authored “Housecleaning from Another Angle wherein he confronts the “silly piffle” created by BJ Palmer:

It is foolish philosophy of some of us and our money-grabbing propensities that the public cannot and will not swallow; so that it becomes not so much a question with them of straight or mixing, but of lying chiropractors….

That is what is killing us, this seeming encouragement of ignorance. 

We must agree among ourselves before we can command the respect of the world, and we can never agree among ourselves as long as so much of the silly piffle that is put forth by this school or by that school as chiropractic philosophy is believed in as gospel truth by so many.[26] 

According to Reed Phillips, DC, PhD, historian and former president of the Los Angeles Chiropractic College, this “encouragement of ignorance” mindset still prevailed in 1998: “Even field practitioners were concerned and dismayed over the profession’s reluctance to lift the source of the river to a higher level”:

I have known the heads of certain schools who actually go so far as to say that they prefer as students the blank, unlettered, unlearned and untrained minds, as they usually make the best chiropractors, knowing full-well the impossibility of getting trained minds to follow their foolish philosophies. This is not fiction, but a fact. Could anything be more disgusting or preposterous! That is what is killing us, this seeming encouragement of ignorance.[27]

Beginning of the End

By the 1920s, BJ’s popularity began to wane due to his dogmatic stance on many issues within chiropractic. At the center of the rebellion to oust BJ was his demand that all members of his political association, the Universal Chiropractic Association (UCA), must lease his Neurocalometer (NCM), a hand-held heat-detecting device supposedly used to find vertebral subluxations.

                 In 1924, BJ Palmer saw the newly invented device, the Neurocalometer by Dossa D. Evins, as the answer to his legal and financial problems.       As the owner of the patent on the Neurocalometer, he planned to limit it to 5,000, and lease them only to members of the UCA. He then claimed that the Neurocalometer was the only way to accurately locate subluxations, preventing over 20,000 mixers from being able to defend their method of practice. [28] There was uproar among chiropractors, and even Tom Morris, BJ Palmer’s old ally and president of the UCA, displayed his dismay by resigning. Only a few days after BJ had introduced the Neurocalometer (NCM), he insisted that ownership of an NCM lease become a mandatory requirement for UCA membership. 

Whether or not his NCM was effective was not the issue as much as the 7,000% interest BJ demanded on a leased device that could be made for $30. The cost of the NCM was enormous—$2,500 plus $100 a month. According to Heath Quigley, “…in that time, and in that economy, the cost was staggering. For example, an expensive car cost $1,000 and an average home could be purchased for $3,500.”[29]

This contentious issue passed the board of the UCA by only one vote, but this short term victory proved to be his eventual downfall because within a year the membership had fallen off so drastically that collapse of the UCA was imminent.  Attendance at Lyceum dropped from more than 8,000 in 1921 to only 700 in 1926.[30] By 1929, the Palmer School of Chiropractic had fewer than three hundred students and was virtually bankrupt.[31]

Later in 1924, aside from the uproar over the NCM, BJ’s and Tom Morris’ legal strategy to exploit “going to jail for chiro” also fell to criticism in an article, “Time for a New Deal” in the Bulletin of the American Chiropractic Association, a rival of BJ’s group:

 The go-to-jail policy is a failure.  Those misguided and unfortunate chiropractors who have allowed themselves to be sent to jail are losers by it and no one is a gainer.  The plan worked in California when it was first tried, but the novelty has worn off and the public is no longer interested, and talk of martyrdom is greeted with a yawn.  Why sacrifice men needlessly?  We recommend compliance with the law.  It is easier to comply with the law than to destroy.[32]

By 1928, BJ’s autocracy was obvious to every leader within chiropractic, and foremost was Craig M. Kightlinger, DC, PhC, president of New York-Eastern Chiropractic Institute, who authored “Natural Law” to illuminate upon the impact of BJ, both good and bad, upon the profession:

There is nothing the matter with Chiropractic.  There is a great deal the matter with Chiropractors.  They have never been used to thinking for themselves.  The time has arrived when they must think for themselves and must lead themselves, or they will go the way of all who oppose the progress of Natural Law and be forced into oblivion.[33]

Not only was BJ’s authority challenged by emerging politicos and educators in the field, so was his revered “chiropractic philosophy,” the mainstay of BJ’s influence upon the profession to this day. In 1929, Charles H. Wood, DC, published “Chiropractic Philosophy” in which he explains the difference between philosophy and theory:

In the first place, ‘chiropractic philosophy’ should be called ‘chiropractic theory,’ because it is based upon a theory and only a theory, just like the medical man bases his philosophy in the practice of medicine upon the germ theory.  All theories as to the cause and cure of disease must depend upon clinical evidence offered by the treatment of a great number of patients who are afflicted with sickness…[34]

BJ’s rule or ruin policy to control the entire profession of chiropractic was opposed by state associations in Kentucky, California, Georgia, and Oregon. Apparently BJ did not believe in state rights to self-determination, and thus stymied any attempts to broaden the scope of care offered by chiropractors who were trained in adjunctive therapies and differential diagnosis other than only spinal manipulation.

In 1931, a public letter, “Kentucky Resents Misrepresentation,” from Lillard T. Marshall, DC, to B.J. Palmer, he complained of BJ’s interference in Kentucky: “Your every action and word also indicates that your only motive is a selfish one that you are attempting to place yourself in the position of leadership which you once enjoyed.”[35]

Unquestionably one lasting legacy that haunted BJ Palmer to his death stemmed from his rule or ruin policy that put his chiropracTIC stance at odds with many progressive chiropractors who disliked his political autocracy, philosophical dogma, anti-educated mindset, restrictive clinical practice, and his entrepreneurial exploits.

BJ testified in behalf of the medical opponents in California in 1933 in the Superior Court of Santa Clara county. In 1934, W Franklin Morris, DC, authored “Quo Vadis: The Chiropractic Legal Pathway in California,” and ridiculed BJ’s “philosophical” stance against broadening the scope of care by chiropractors in California. This was equivalent to professional heresy to oppose and defy “B. Jabus” as BJ was mockingly referred to by his combative colleagues:

It will be observed that the intention of the suit is to limit the construction of this defining clause, and to cause Chiropractic to be construed as being the adjusting of the movable 24 segments of the vertebral column to ‘relieve pressure on nerves,’ and nothing else.

Dr. Palmer, familiarly known as B. Jabus, took the stand and testified that Chiropractic consists of normal transmission of “mental impulses” through all intervertebral foramina, and that when this situation maintains, the organism must be well.  This conclusion, B. Jabus maintains, is based upon the philosophy that disease cannot exist if and when mental impulses are normally transmitted through all intervertebral foramina. [36]

The president of Western States Chiropractic College in Portland, Oregon, WA Budden, DC, ND, in 1935 mentioned the interference by BJ who sided with the medical society against chiropractors who wanted to expand their scope of practice:

The closing days of the campaign were perhaps the most painful, not because of the attitude of the medics, but because they brought to light what appeared to be clear evidence that an erstwhile leader of the Chiropractic world had gone over to the enemy irrevocably–that he had, in fact, burned his boats.

Two days before the election the state newspapers carried large advertisements advising the people that “America’s Leading Chiropractor, B.J. Palmer–agrees with the entire medical profession of Oregon” in urging people to vote against the amendment and for the strengthening of medical monopoly.[37]

In 1958, a similar bill was introduced in the Georgia legislature to prohibit chiropractors from “employing the use of vitamins, physiotherapy, electrotherapy, or hydrotherapy,” in addition to canceling the educational license renewal provision to upgrade continuing education.

According to an editorial by LM Rogers, DC:

Running true to form, B.J. Palmer appeared before the legislature, as well as on television, in support of this restrictive and limiting legislation, to create division and dissension.  We are happy to state that through efforts of the Georgia Chiropractic Association, this abortive attempt at further restriction of chiropractors was indefinitely postponed and, we are advised, is dead for this session.

Thus, once again we see the private Palmer interests, with their specific technic approach, attempting to deny doctors of chiropractic the legal right to the use of natural forces, such as heat, light, air, water, and diet which are common property for use by all of the healing arts even used by laymen, in fact, without restriction.[38]

The Death of a Chiropractic Salesman

The Great Depression of 1929 wiped out much of BJ Palmer’s personal fortune. BJ’s wife, Mabel, who held most of their property in her name for legal purposes, died in 1949, leaving everything to her side of the family. The only thing BJ got was permission to stay in his own house in Davenport as a guest. Embittered, he retreated to what had been his summer home in Sarasota, eventually returning to Palmer only for the summer Lyceums, where his voice grew ever fainter.[39]

For the last thirty seven years of his life, he would “become a prophet scorned, relegated to a philosophical Mecca that could no longer command annual pilgrimages of unquestioning followers,”[40] “a titular leader only, keeping the flame for a fundamentalist minority and doing battle with most of the profession.”[41]

As his last swan song, BJ wrote in 1959 a scathing commentary, “Shall Chiropractic Survive?” in which he blasted this new wave in chiropractic. In a humorous and biting response, Orval L. Hidde, DC, JD, mockingly summarized the impact of the fading demagogue upon the profession.  It should be noted that Dr. Hidde was involved in securing federal recognition of the Council on Chiropractic Education, an agency BJ opposed. His commentary needs slight clarification to know that “Mr. Head ‘TIC’ or ‘TOR’ refers to BJ himself.

A Last-Stand Blast by Mr. Head ‘TIC’

Is it any wonder that Mr. HEAD ‘TIC’ and ‘TOR’ is disgruntled with the higher educational requirements?  How can you get educated people to bow, chant, and follow like the uneducated mass? The educated man is the man who is striking the death blow to the dynasty of Mr. HEAD ‘TIC’ and ‘TOR’.

The educated man asks questions–he wants to know why.  He wants his science to be based on demonstrable scientific principle and not on the prattlings of the ‘mental impulse and innate intelligence from above down and inside out’ yesterday, today, and forever, without change.

The educated man realizes that these terms are not scientific scrutiny.

The educated man knows that his science works, and also knows that it can be explained in sound anatomical and physiological terms which cannot be disputed or be made a sham of by allied professions… 

The educated man knows that progress is the necessary life blood of any human endeavor.  He knows that freedom of thought and unrestricted research and testing of his scientific principle can only add to its acceptability and to its soundness.

In closing, we simply make this comment of observation.  Mr. HEAD ‘TIC’ and ‘TOR’s’ seventy-two page death rattle would have been more appropriately entitled: Shall ‘TIC’ and ‘TOR’ survive?  Ironically, he provides his readers with the answer and reaffirms it on each of the seventy-two pages.  It is an emphatic no, for it has been said that ‘the mills of the gods grind slowly but surely’ and surely the reign of ‘TIC’ and ‘TOR’ is grinding to an end. [42]

Near the end of his life in 1961, BJ’s hold on chiropractic had eroded. State associations were expanding their scope of practice, chiropractic colleges under the auspice of federal and regional educational accreditation regulations raised their standards, and progressive political leadership demanded a change of course from BJ’s rule or ruin to a more accommodating attitude of unity within the profession.

BJ spent the last lonely years of his life in constant pain, first from ulcers, then from cancer of the colon, which he aggravated by trying to treat it with chiropractic. When he finally consented to surgery and had part of the colon removed, it was too late and he died in 1961.[43]

The death of BJ Palmer came with mixed emotions for the profession. On one hand, his followers mourn the loss of their patron saint while, on the other hand, the rest of the profession and the AMA were glad to see this chiropractic demagogue pass on.

The announcement of BJ’s death in the Journal of the National Chiropractic Association included the sentiments of many chiropractors:  “May, 1961, then, ushers in a new era of golden opportunity for the growth and expansion of the profession,” a clear indication that his passing would bring hope and progress to the profession. “With a spirit of tolerance, understanding, and co-operation during the coming years, this profession can reach new heights in official recognition and universal acceptance in the interests of the public health and welfare.”[44]

After his death in 1961, Palmer College was headed by David D. Palmer, BJ’s only child who, unlike his father, was a graduate from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. If DD was considered the “Founder,” and BJ the “Defender” of chiropractic, David D. Palmer was best known as the “Educator.” David Palmer assumed the presidency of Palmer in 1961 and died in 1978 at the age of 71.

BJ’s imprint upon the chiropractic profession is a lasting mark as indelible as that of Morris Fishbein’s impact upon the medical profession. If Morris Fishbein represented the ills of the AMA demagoguery, until his death in 1961, BJ Palmer represented the same strident attitude among chiropractors with his rule or ruin autocracy. Although he claimed to be the Developer of chiropractic (much to the objection of his father, DD), to many chiropractors, he also had been a pain in the profession’s neck and a bottleneck to progress.

Chiropractic Scalawags

BJ’s autocratic and eccentric personality would become the role model imitated by others posing as educators at diploma mills, yellow journalists of free chiropracTIC tabloids, political demagogues, technique salesmen, and self-proclaimed chiropracTIC philosophers who espoused BJ’s dogma as if it were irrefutable gospel.

In the wake of BJs passing arose a host of devotees such as Jimmie Parker, Sid Williams, Reggie Gold, Fred Barge, Thom Gelardi, Joe Flesia, Terry Rondberg, Guy Riekeman, and a myriad of chiropracTIC philosophers, vendors, and practice management advisors. While the characters may have changed, the plot remained the same.

Without a doubt, BJ the charismatic Entrepreneur created problems for the chiropractic profession with his many protégés who patterned themselves after his iconoclastic personality, his brand of education, and his driving capitalist spirit. Needless to say, their impact continues to be a stumbling block for progress and reform within the profession, a point not lost to Jerry McAndrews, DC, former president of Palmer after David Palmer passed:

Until belief-like ‘faith’ is removed from our midst, then the person with the loud voice, the nice clothes, the four-color brochures, and the methods to compound incomes will carry the day.

I’m praying for the day when our real scientists can say, ‘Chiropractic works, and here’s why.’ Perhaps that’s a challenge for the next wave of chiropractors—those better-educated, evidence-based, bio-mechanists, who will improve our technology and explain the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ of the force behind the matter.”

Thank heavens we have an increasingly emerging group which collectively says, ‘we’ve had enough.’ This group supports new journals, reads them, begins to reject the smoke of the past, and begins to demand that the language be accurate. Eventually, the misuse of ‘chiropractic philosophy’ will disappear and we will find the ‘philosophy of the science of chiropractic’ in its place. It already sounds stimulating. [45]

The impact of the peculiar and dogmatic behavior by some chiropractors was also mentioned before the ACA House of Delegates on May 13, 1992, when Mr. Mark Goodin, the ACA’s legislative consultant, used frank and explicit terms in his opinion of chiropractic’s image and political dilemma:

That enemy, of course, is this profession itself—and those elements within it that are unwilling to deal forthrightly with the charlatans, hucksters, profiteers, and wild-eyed ‘philosophers’ who put their own selfish interest ahead of science and the ethical and professional demands that every true healer must shoulder.

You know who they are. They exist in virtually every community in which you practice. Their garish yellow page advertisements hawk free exams and x-rays – tests that, lo and behold, discover a variety of subluxation-related ailments which, if not treated immediately, threaten the life of the unwitting patient. They intentionally promote and practice the over-utilization of chiropractic.

They pass themselves off as ‘educators,’ but cut corners and counsel their students with messianic appeals on ego and self-promotion. They spend their out-of-practice careers in a cause to stop legitimate reform. They bring nothing of value to the future of this profession—but will resist, oppose, reject, undercut, and nit-pick any effort to lift it up through higher accreditation, more comprehensive education, real standards of care and more ethical practice requirements.

They are the small, but vocal class of professional naysayers who continue to enrich themselves, all the while dragging down an entire profession which now stands at the very brink of long-term success or instant failure and continued ignominy… The question that vexes me most is why? Why does this profession continue to tolerate their excesses?[46]

Foremost at the top of this list of those “charlatans, hucksters, profiteers, and wild-eyed ‘philosophers’” was Sidney E. Williams, a Georgia native and BJ sycophant who graduated from Palmer and later founded Life Chiropractic College in 1974. If BJ had a Napoleonic image in the first half of the twentieth century, Williams assumed the same role with even more gusto during the second half.

Just as BJ left his imprint, Sid Williams exemplified how one man’s misguided ambition could affect the image of an entire profession. During his 40-year career as a political leader, motivational speaker, and college president, he stereotyped the chiropractic profession to the entire country, if not to the world after his demise.

To this day, just like the historic impact of BJ Palmer and Morris Fishbein upon chiropractic and medicine, this one person embodied the quackery image that lingers on to stain the contemporary chiropractic profession for nearly half a century.

Williams began his chiropractic career as a high-volume, low-cost practitioner in Atlanta in the 1950s who operated a chain of clinics in the poorer black areas of the west end of Atlanta where he gave free chicken dinners to attract new patients and used a ‘box-on-the-wall’ pay-what-you-can collection gimmick. He later bragged to students of his clinical prowess to see over one thousand patient visits weekly. His motto was to “accept all cases regardless of condition or financial ability to pay;” a reckless policy to say the least, albeit charitable sounding to impressionable students.

He began speaking at motivational seminars in front of downtrodden chiropractors that later gave birth to his own fundamentalist religious-styled “Dynamic Essentials” (DE) seminar where he uplifted aimless young chiropractors seeking the path to business success, inner happiness, and a BJ-inspired practice. Williams often told a story how he honed his salesmanship skills by “loving the pots and pans” that he sold while a student at Palmer that eventually led to his mantra, his “Lasting Purpose: To Give, To Love, To Serve out of one’s own abundance.”  Unfortunately, his Lasting Purpose would soon become this profession’s Lasting Problem.[47]

From its website, the philosophy of DE is described:

Dynamic Essentials or DE is a powerful catalyst to personal change and growth. Dynamic Essentials recognizes that Chiropractors go through a long, strenuous and sometimes deficient educational process. This educational process often disregards Chiropractic’s founding principles and scoffs at the idea that there is more to life than what science can easily prove. With respect for Chiropractic’s founding principles and the principle that the “Power that made the body, heals the body,” Dynamic Essentials focuses on our responsibility as Chiropractors to lay hands on the sick and oppressed and see them recover.

At DE we agree with the adage that states: “Once you get the big idea, all else follows.”[48]

Charles Thomas, historian at Life College from 1992 to 1995, described his initial astonishment listening to Sid Williams preached at his DE meeting:

The meeting was scheduled to begin at three. By a quarter to four, I was already getting restive; due to family obligations, I had to leave by four-thirty at the latest. But I would learn that Dr. Sid would refuse to enter any hall where he was speaking until every last seat was filled and there were standees along each wall.

Toward four I suddenly heard excited whispering running through the crowd, which took up a steadily swelling chant: “Sid! Sid! Sid! Sid!” to a burst of wild applause the man depicted in the portrait and the statue on campus, albeit with completely white hair and waistline gone to pot, made his triumphal entry down the main aisle, while his followers, some standing on their chairs, reached out to touch him or elbowed each other for a chance to shake his hand. Some of them held up their children so they could see him. As he reached the podium and took the microphone, I prepared myself for what I seriously expected to be a spell-binding, charismatic address.

And for the next thirty minutes, I listened to the worst public speaker I had ever heard. Dr. Sid used no notes or outline. His rhetoric made Joyce’s writing look rigidly structured by comparison. In that one half hour he started five stories he never finished. Couched in a broad Southern accent, his discourse was a mélange in which practice-building gimmicks, New Age spiritualism, old-time Baptist religion, scatological humor, and pseudo-science vied wildly for equal time in terms of grammatical atrocities and malapropisms, he butchered the language as enthusiastically and horribly as his sister-in-law (Mildred Lee).

In a mere thirty minutes, I learned that Dr Sid’s role models were evangelists and faith healers and that his personal values were relentlessly authoritarian. That was when anything could be made of his talk at all. Most of the cornpone verbiage was what psychiatrists call “word soup”. Thoroughly appalled, I looked to the people around me for confirmation of my assessment of this pathetic performance. It was a mistake. Their worshipful, bovine faces were turned lovingly to Dr. Sid, wearing absent half-smiles, eyes shining, giving flesh to the old saw “hanging on every word”. In a flash I realized where I was and what this was, and devoutly wished to be anywhere else.[49]

Thomas’s unpublished manuscript, “Life College: Inside An American Cult,” is an intriguing exposé of Sid Williams, his family members, the development of Life College, and the fascinating yet sordid politics of a twisted leader rivaled only by BJ Palmer himself.

Rule or Ruin: Part Two

Despite Williams’ ascension to the chiropracTIC throne, what followed years later became a disaster for him personally and for the entire chiropractic profession’s image. This one man’s failure set back indelibly the collective image of chiropractic academia, political power, and public relations.

Williams mimicked BJ Palmer as a chiropractic entrepreneur who first became a practice management guru, a supply vendor, and motivational speaker before he began the next phase of his career as a college president. He and his followers opened their own college in Marietta, Georgia in 1974, to train students to follow his scheme of chiropracTIC modeled after BJ at the Palmer School of Chiropractic.

While his humanistic philosophy resonated among young practitioners and idealistic students, his reality was completely different. He operated with an autocratic administration comprised of his three family members–wife, Nell, the College Vice President, his sister-in-law, Mildred Lee, the school’s Personnel Director, and his daughter, Kim, a Life graduate who became a Department Head at the college less than two years after graduation–and his lifelong friend, DD Humber, another Vice President. None had degrees in higher education, nor did any have any previous experience operating a college–indeed, all were simply “cornpone” chiropracTORs and academic imposters.

Nepotism and greed became the hallmarks of his college along with an anachronistic academic attitude that focused simply on “detect and correct vertebral subluxations” to the exclusion of diagnostics or adjunct therapies—the Palmer chiropracTIC “straight” version from yesteryear eventually led to the loss of accreditation of his college.

The depth of Williams’ anti-intellectualism was dramatic and often befuddling, such as when he said, “Rigor mortis is the only thing we can’t help!”[50] He scoffed at the scientific mindset and even declared, “To hell with the scientists. They haven’t proven a bumble bee could fly.”[51]

In April of 1994, the American Chiropractic Association had had enough of this academic charlatan and openly denounced Williams in a news release, “ACA Disavows Dr. Sid Williams,” and repudiated statements he had made about the profession. The ACA made clear that it was distancing itself from Williams:

The American Chiropractic Association stands firmly behind the scientific method and believes that scientifically based outcome and other studies, as well as cooperation with other health care providers and basic scientists, offers the profession of chiropractic its best hope of fulfilling its obligations and responsibilities to the public it serves. Accordingly, the ACA rejects the actual or apparent unscientific bias of Dr. Williams, as exemplified by the above cited quotations, as well as others.[52]

In its closing remarks, the ACA noted that it “has always stood and continues to stand for responsible, professional, cost-conscious and scientific health care, without sectarianism, cultism, hucksterism and other behavior not focused on the ultimate welfare of patients.”

Williams was very open that his strong suit rested with his charismatic rhetoric and not a scholarly approach. Even the name of Williams’ college, “Life,” is symbolic of his delusional grandeur when he often announced at his seminars that “Nothing is bigger than Life.” In his effort to appear ethereal, he actually appeared bizarre to the mainstream chiropractic profession and to the public.

Indeed, Life Chiropractic College was a throwback to the pre-accreditation days at Palmer School of Chiropractic in many ways. The curriculum was elementary and laden with more chiropracTIC philosophy than actual science. At his so-called philosophy sessions, “Dr. Sid,” as he preferred to be called, resembled a Southern Pentecostal pastor speaking at a revival more than a learned academician teaching a scholarly subject.  His brand of chiropractic philosophy quickly became known as “chirovangelism” for its unmistakably blend of BJ Palmer and Oral Roberts.

Hidden not that far beneath his chirovangelism was a strong motivation of greed illustrated by a chant created by Williams—the infamous “Money Hum” that he enthusiastically led students to repeat at his weekly mandatory seminars on campus:

Start imagining yourself ultra, ultra, ultra wealthy. Just see bales and piles of money, just everywhere. Gold or diamonds or whatever it is turns you on… Start down at the bottom and get you a handful of it. In your mind’s eye, say Mmmmmmooonnneeeyyy!!!

It is unconscionable that any college president would stoop to such an unprincipled and greedy motivating chant. Unfortunately, Life has never appeared eager to offer the best quality of education as much as it is known for being a virtual diploma mill aimed at large numbers and using money as its lure. Indeed, student loan monies were obviously his “piles of money” behind the dream of Williams to be the biggest chiropractic college in the world with the largest budget.

Despite the trend to evidence-based education and practice in mainstream chiropractic colleges, Life remained a closed enclave that promoted the chirovangelism of yesteryear as noted by Charles Lantz, DC, PhD, former Director of Research at Life Chiropractic College, who witnessed the chiropracTIC gobbledygook firsthand:

It only takes one ‘The Power that Made the Body Heals the Body’ sermon to undo several semesters of efforts to teach critical thinking and an appreciation of the ‘rigueur de science’. 

Who wants the rigors of critical thinking when they can zone out on the intoxicating siren song of Innatism, or the giddy ecstasy attained from chanting the mantra S-U-B-L-U-X-A-T-I-O-N?[53]

Fame & Fortune

Just as the flamboyant BJ was infatuated with the Ringling Bros. Circus and held seminars under a big circus tent at Palmer College in Davenport, Sid Williams never shrank from the limelight in Atlanta with numerous appearances on television programs. He became the subject of many articles in magazines and newspapers with his flamboyant persona and outlandish claims.

Unquestionably as the most successful and wealthiest chiropractor in the world by that time, Williams had every reason to be proud of himself. By the mid-1990s, Life had become the largest college of chiropractic in the world with an annual budget approaching $73 million, but the tide was soon to change when regional and federal academic agencies began to take a hard look at his college.

When revelations in the media emerged about his large compensation and academic incompetence, combined with his fiery denials and his inarticulate Southern jargon, he appeared as an uneducated redneck rather than an academician dedicated to higher learning. In every way, Life College was his cash cow, and he milked it as long as he could despite the impending investigations and media exposure that revealed the underbelly of Life as a diploma mill.

On April 22, 1979, “60 Minutes” with Mike Wallace aired a segment, “Chiropractors” that focused on Sid Williams and other dubious characters in chiropractic. Mike Wallace’s skepticism of Williams came through loud and clear to his audience when Williams and his patients gave Wallace their “cure-all” testimonials.[54] The bewilderment on Mike Wallace’s face spoke volumes of his skepticism, undoubtedly the same disbelief of his many viewers.

During the last week of February, 1979, Mike Wallace showed up on Williams’ campus to shoot. According to Life historian Charles Thomas, Williams’ feared his lecture was not fit for public consumption, so while filming was in progress, the doors to the college’s assembly hall were locked and all recording equipment removed as part of an agreement between CBS and the college.[55]

Undeterred by Williams’’ interference, Wallace closed his segment by referring to “Life Chiropractic College as a place where the students can deliver the gospel of chiropractic as well as Dr. Sid.”

“Hey, Mike, change that!” Williams protested, “Don’t be saying ‘the gosapel’ [sic].”

“Listen, Dr. Sid, you run the damn college,” Wallace retorted coolly, “I’ll run the program.”[56]

The segment also included interviews with two chiropractors from Florida who were not supporters of Sid Williams or Life College. Malcolm Haber and Herbert Poinsett bluntly told Wallace that “they’re practicing quackery–outright quackery” and asserted that Williams must be “delusional” or a “con artist.”[57]

Another serious shot across his bow came from a 1980 article in the National Enquirer revealing the greedy nature of the Williams’ professional seminar in an article titled, “Course Teaches Greedy Chiropractors How to Get Rich by Cheating Patients” written by Lee Harrison. His expose showed the obvious tacky nature of this supposed professional seminar.[58]

Harrison wrote, “Behind closed doors at a luxurious Atlanta hotel, chiseling chiropractors…400 of these smooth-talking charlatans met recently for one purpose—to learn new ways to cash in on your pain and misery.”

After numerous examples of outrageous ploys to exploit patients, Harrison ended his article with a statement by a Williams’ devotee, Dr. John Cowan.

I love chiropractic because I love money. As chiropractors we have such difficult decisions to make in our lives. Why, just the other day I had to decide whether to take a steam bath at my home or swim in my big pool. Last month alone I made $55,000. Sometimes I just don’t know how to spend it all. But I usually find a way.[59]

This troubling article was just the start for more embarrassments and set the tone of what became the public image of Life as a diploma mill led by a clan of academic imposters and greedy supporters.

The trickle of bad public relations turned into a tsunami when the Atlanta metropolitan area newspapers also published numerous articles about troubling instances at Life, including an exposé on the huge student loan default problem at Life whose students were responsible for 25 percent of all loan defaults in the federal Health Education Assistance Loan (HEAL) program.

In the January 17-18, 1995, editions of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper appeared a two-part series about “The ‘Life’ and Times of Sid Williams”[60] as well as a revealing follow-up article, “Student DEBT,” about Life University leading all professional colleges in student loan defaults to the tune of $28.2 million.[61] The Associated Press picked up this story and distributed another embarrassing article entitled, “Life University Students Top Federal-loan Default List.”[62]

Williams’ in-eloquent response was just as embarrassing: “My students are not skunks or scalawags. They got trapped in something they can’t help.” No one is certain how they “got trapped” in a loan program administered by Life without someone there knowing what was happening.

This academic fiasco was revealed by the editors Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE), a journal that is read by college presidents and administrators throughout the nation. Without question, the revelations at Life were stunning. The CHE discovered the combined salaries of Life’s executive staff in the range of $2.7 million at a non-profit organization that brought in over $73 million annually at its height. [63]

With minimal entrance requirements compared to other chiropractic colleges and a massive TV recruiting budget, Life quickly grew more than any other chiropractic college in history. According to the 1998 IRS filing, Life University’s net assets were $73,299,581, and its total expenses were $53,508,620—a nearly $20 million profit is not bad for a non-profit, 501(c) organization. One interesting “income-producing activity” of note was the $177,305 earned from parking fines at Life. Apparently, Williams designed his campus to have too few parking lots for his students, so he bought his own tow truck business to profit by this oversight.

To say Life University was a cash cow for Williams is an understatement considering he was paid more than the presidents of both Harvard and Yale combined. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) editorial:

Among other things, the accreditation panels criticized the school’s financial management: The Williams dynasty draws massive salaries by any university’s standards. In 1997 (the latest figures for Life’s salaries from the Chronicle of Higher Education), Williams’ salary was more than $900,923; his wife’s was nearly $500,000; his sister-in-law, assistant vice president Mildred Kimbrough, more than $323,000; and his longtime friend, Vice President Durie Humber, $625,870. While her salary is not available [allegedly in the $400,000 range], Williams’ daughter, Kim, is also employed in the administration.

By comparison, Harvard’s president earned $380,000 in 2000 and Yale’s president, $552,000. [64]

Imagine what legitimate educators must have thought to hear that a president of a chiropractic college in Georgia earned more than all other college presidents. By the way, Williams’ income from his DE seminars and his family-owned Si-Nel chiropractic supply company that had exclusive rights to the students at Life were omitted from his nearly one million dollar compensation mentioned in the AJC editorial.

His omnipotence as an autocratic college president was not lost on reporters. “It’s hard to tell where Sidney E. Williams ends and Life University begins,” wrote Welch Suggs for The Chronicle of Higher Education in 1999.[65]

Throughout the campus of converted warehouses in this fast-growing suburb of Atlanta, Mr. Williams can be seen grinning down from life-sized portraits. He preaches on the university’s primary mission—educating chiropractors—from closed-circuit television monitors in almost every hallway. A bronze bust of him gazes out at the foyer of the main administrative offices. With his gravelly Georgia accent; intense, deep-set eyes; and natty suits, he cuts a vivid figure…Before getting in, he tells one last story, about a trip he took to Oral Roberts University, in Tulsa, Okla., site of a 60-foot-tall sculpture of a pair of praying hands.

Life is constructing its own sculpture of hands, of similar size, Mr. Williams says. They will mime one of chiropractic’s symbols: one hand outstretched, and the other grasping the wrist of the first hand, like a chiropractor giving an adjustment. They will be modeled on Mr. Williams’ hands—with his Georgia Tech football rings—preserved for as long as the university stands. “That’s where I’m going to put them,” he says, pointing out a spot by the university’s bell tower, which is dedicated to the memory of chiropractors who were jailed for practicing their craft.

With the larger-than-life hands, it will be even harder to tell where Mr. Williams ends and the university starts.

Beginning of the End of Life

This Enron-type scandal began at Life in the early 1980s when the federal government initially included chiropractic students in its graduate student loan program for health professionals. Williams found this to be a huge source of income and he immediately and dramatically increased tuition costs to match the limits of these student HEAL loans as he fought to keep the entrance requirements at the rock bottom; total costs for a four-year stint exceeded $100,000 for a chiropractic degree.

To keep his diploma mill flowing, Williams fought all efforts to improve the curriculum or raise student requirements such as the GPA. Indeed, he embodied the “encouragement of ignorance” deplored by legitimate educators.

In September, 1998, the Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE) increased the prerequisite grade point average for students entering accredited chiropractic programs from 2.25 to 2.50 on a 4.00 scale. This decision came after the CCE study, “Predicting Chiropractic Student Performance,” that based academic success by two yardsticks: grade-point average (GPA) and test scores on Parts I and II of the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners.[66]

Although other college presidents like James Winterstein of National College and Reed Phillips at the Los Angeles Chiropractic College had already raised his college’s entrance requirements beyond the minimum professional and federal accrediting standards,[67] Sid Williams objected in order to maintain the high enrollment rate at his diploma mill.

Williams and his protégé, Gerald Clum, his assistant who he later appointed president at Life-West in San Leandro, California, argued against the CCE when it proposed to raise the minimum GPA for students that, in essence, “good grades don’t translate into good doctors” and citing his wish to have more chirovangelists in the field like Billy Graham. Williams’ testimony was truly a testament to BJ Palmer’s adage, “education constipates the mind”:

We all appreciate academic honors and hold in high regard those among us who are top achievers. However, we have all observed that a high grade point average in the classroom often is a poor predictor of performance in the field. Educators have long known that some 90 percent of the facts and figures learned in class are soon forgotten. It’s fine and good to have a plaque to hang on the wall, but when we are looking at a dying world that is already suffering because of man’s inhumanity to man, we don’t need to add to that suffering by establishing criteria that are not really relevant to professional skills.

I am convinced that curtailing the production of qualified chiropractic practitioners through the imposition of unnecessarily higher academic requirements would needlessly slow the growth of our profession and also deny many fully capable, friendly, compassionate, professional, intelligent people the opportunity to serve humanity through the unique science of chiropractic.

What our profession needs is more pioneers—more evangelists for chiropractic. We need to follow the successful example of religion and send chiropractic missionaries to every village in the world where they are needed. What we need is some chiropractic Billy Graham’s who truly believe in their profession and who can convincingly take the message to the world.[68] (emphasis added)

This battle to raise the GPA standards and Williams’ awkward justification to keep them low spoke volumes about his disregard for improving academics. This was just one battle that Williams fought with the CCE, with plenty more to come, such as the inadequate curriculum at Life, a huge public embarrassment that stained the image of the entire chiropractic profession. Even BJ’s antics never amounted to the shame Williams brought upon the profession.

Undoubtedly Williams’ brand of chiropracTIC education became a huge concern for the accrediting bodies—the national CCE and the regional Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). In June 2001, CCE put Life on public probation status, which is the final step before loss of accreditation. The regional accrediting body, SACS, likewise required Life to comply with 52 recommendations and to rework its self-study report, which kicked off the 10-year accreditation review.

Noting many academic deficiencies, the CCE demanded an upgrade in Life’s curriculum and Williams objected. “These conspirators would convince us that the ‘scientific approach’ to chiropractic is the only approach acceptable to the public community, the professionals, and the legislatures.”[69] Inexplicably, this is a rather odd attitude from a supposed president of a health science college.

Williams was obviously not a student of history because he ignored similar events leading to his downfall that paralleled the fall of BJ Palmer with his autocratic leadership. Once the tide turned against him in the court of public opinion along with the intra-professional animosity he created for himself with his rule or ruin policy, Dr. Sid had no one to rescue his sinking ship and, to be honest, many chiropractors were happy to watch him go down.

Williams’ fleecing of chiropractic emerged in other articles such as those in the CHE, the National Enquirer, the Atlantic Monthly, to name but a few. Plus, the numerous newspaper articles in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Marietta Daily Journal wrote a near-daily soap opera of the battles between CCE and SACS with Williams.

Joseph Brimhall, DC, the chairman of the Commission on Accreditation of the CCE, led an on-campus team of academic experts and clinically trained doctors of chiropractic to investigate Life. When Brimhall reviewed with Williams his dire findings of numerous violations of accreditation standards, supposedly they sat knee-to-knee in Williams’ executive office and rather than a reconciliatory attitude, Williams with his typical autocratic defiance laughed in Brimhall’s face, rejected his warning, and threatened to sue the CCE if Life lost its accreditation.

On June 10, 2002, Dr. Sid Williams was notified by the CCE’s Commission on Accreditation that Life’s application for reaffirmation of accreditation was denied. Obviously with CCE’s requirement to produce primary care providers, (PCPs) and with Georgia state law requiring chiropractors to be trained as PCPs, Williams’ refusal to produce adequate academic training for PCPs was a huge problem.

The SACS report on Life University also cited more than 50 violations in areas ranging from administration, academic support, and finances. The 100-page report, based on a visit by a team of accreditation experts, clearly stated the problems as mentioned in this Marietta Daily Journal article, “Accreditation Agency Cites Problems at Life,” by Chris Joyner: [70]

The primary issues, according to the letter, include this substandard preparation of chiropractic students…Qualifications of faculty members also came under the scrutiny of the CCE during the investigation…the least experienced faculty in direct supervision of students who are just entering the clinic system and learning to care for patients…The investigation also found a large number of faculty with “adverse” ratings in the Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards database of disciplinary actions—with most of the poor ratings due to non-payment of student loans.

 According to the report, Life may be hiring chiropractors who have not been successful in private practice, which could result in poor role modeling for students.

The other areas of concern in the letter included:

  • Lack of direct supervision of students by advisers and clinic doctors during clinical activities.
  • Poor instruction of proper case management skills.
  • Lack of assistance by Life to provide sufficient numbers of patients, and instruction on how to acquire patients, as well as dealing with third-party payer systems, including Medicare and private insurance companies.
  • Lack of preparation of students in terms of diagnosing problems with patients.

Life’s brand of “higher” education included unqualified, inexperienced, and often unethical instructors who were serious concerns of both SACS and CCE. As well, academic censorship and the lack of academic freedom at Life were mentioned—either toe the line of the Williams’ clan or else leave, as reported in the Marietta Daily Journal’s (MDJ) article:

… the SACS team found teachers in math, philosophy, economics and other fields who had little experience with the topics as students, much less as teachers…The Visiting Committee found that numerous faculty were teaching basic science courses in the Doctor of Chiropractic Program without holding a doctorate in the sciences…The team also noted faculty at Life are paid lower than teachers at comparable universities and make reference to ‘numerous communications that the [SACS’] Commission on Colleges office has received from alumni and former employees expressing the belief that academic freedom is constrained by the senior-level management of Life University. [71]

The main internal oversight control of Williams’ antics, the Board of Trustees, also was cited by SACS for its ineptness. It is well known that Williams had handpicked from his cronies those who willingly acquiesced and allowed Williams to operate at his pleasure as noted by SACS. “The SACS committee even noted the college’s Board of Trustees is of little influence when compared to Williams,” according to the same MDJ article. Indeed, the tail was wagging the dog at Life.

CCE determined that Life’s core curriculum simply failed to produce competent primary care physicians (PCPs) as required by CCE standards and state laws for doctors of chiropractic (DCs). Aside from rendering treatment, PCPs are held to a higher measure than therapists because PCPs must be able to render a diagnosis and manage the patient’s health care as well as provide treatment or to refer to MDs when necessary. The CCE report also stated:

“The program was unable to provide evidence that assures doctor of chiropractic degree candidates demonstrate an understanding of the clinical indications for and the relative value of diagnostic studies. Moreover, there was no evidence of demonstrating understanding of federal and state regulatory guidelines governing procedures and the use of equipment employed in diagnostic studies.”[72]

In effect, by ignoring differential diagnostics, Life was producing “chiropractic therapists” instead of “doctors of chiropractic,” an outdated pre-CCE version of “straight” chiropracTIC education from the 1950s when Dr. Williams was a student at Palmer College, but considered inadequate by present federal standards.

Aside from the failure of Life to produce competent PCPs, it also had many problems in its student clinics with clinical doctors inexperienced in actual practice and too few qualified instructors (PhDs) on staff in the classrooms. CCE and SACS discovered many on staff were recent grads posing as instructors and clinical doctors despite the fact many had no professional experience in the field. In effect, Life’s classrooms and clinics often had the blind leading the blind.

The SACS inspection team determined the school’s Doctor of Chiropractic program “lacks depth in the areas of diagnosis and management of patient care beyond the chiropractic analysis and adjustment” and teaches treatment methods “inconsistent with the current practice of chiropractic.”

Certainly, when a storefront across the street from the campus openly sold pirated tests to Life students without any objection from Williams, it was obvious Life was a diploma mill and had to be stopped.

For all intents and purposes, Life had been a chiropractic college on steroids with a burgeoning student body that flooded the state with grads—the 2000 census showed Georgia had the fifth-most chiropractors in the entire nation along with the sixth-lowest gross income. In its short 28-year existence, Life had graduated over 12,000 students, nearly 20 percent of all chiropractors worldwide. As well, Life graduates led the entire nation in student loan defaults at an astounding twenty-five percent rate, and Life grads led many state licensure exams in failure rates.

Both the CCE and SACS reports also noted the lack of budgeting for genuine research at Life. According to the paper, “Research Productivity of Chiropractic College Faculty,” published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiologic Therapeutics, in its first 25 years, Life published a grand total of 7 peer-reviewed papers while National College of Chiropractic published over 220 in the same time period.[73]

The CCE and SACS reports noted complaints by the faculty about the lack of research and repressive academic environment at Life.  Williams banned books, censored instructors, purged dissidents, and prohibited rival political leaders from addressing the student body, including the president of the American Chiropractic Association. Apparently, the Free Speech Movement in the 1960s had bypassed Life; the only one free to speak at Life was Williams himself. He treated his students and staff as children, and often told them, “I’m the daddy” when, actually, he acted more like a tyrant.

It was obvious that Williams had out-lived his usefulness to the chiropractic profession. By now he had shown himself to be an imposter as a college president who had made a mockery of higher education. With a water-downed curriculum, too few qualified instructors, enormous amounts of students with questionable academic and clinical training, a repressive academic atmosphere, and a nepotic administration, Life had earned its reputation as a diploma mill that flooded the profession with many ill-trained practitioners who followed in his misguided footsteps leading to a deluge of student loan defaults. Apparently, the fruit did not fall far from the Tree of Life.

Inexplicably, Williams published his Jan/Feb 1998 editorial in his own magazine, Today’s Chiropractic, “Learning a Lesson from the Snake Oil Salesman.”  In this 1998 article aimed to challenge the CCE standards, he stated his simplistic view of chiropracTIC practice and noted the only adjunctive therapy required is the “You’re Better” protocol. Like the proverbial snake oil salesman of patent medicines, patients are told they are “better” although nothing of therapeutic importance had been done. Who needs diagnostics or proper clinical skills when one can use the “You’re Better” protocol? Unbeknown to Williams, he revealed his true nature as chiropracTIC’s leading snake oil salesman—a true Freudian slip!

Life’s Last Gasp

When the accreditation battles with SACS and CCE surfaced, students realized that Life was in trouble. According to the SACS report, enrollment began declining at a rapid rate—from 13,858 students in 1997 to a projected enrollment of 9,648 that coming fall, and by 2002 only 8,520 students were expected to be enrolled, a decline of 20.7 percent from fiscal year 1997, causing a budget deficit of $2.3 million in 1999, $1.7 million in 2000, and from fiscal year 2001 a $3.3 million drop in tuition revenue. The university lost more than $4 million each year over the next two years, according to the report. The report also found $1.9 million in deficit spending on sports and $600,000 for TV ads. [74]

The news of the CCE loss of accreditation created a bunker mentality for the Williams clan and when they did resurface, Williams began his spin campaign in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) newspaper:

After almost a week spent below the radar, Williams made his first public comments Thursday about his school’s loss of accreditation. In an event that often seemed more like a gospel revival than a student assembly, Williams attempted to rally student support for the school and the chiropractic profession.[75]

 “This is not a war against Life University,” he said. “It’s a war against chiropracTIC, and I want you to remember that…,” he told several hundred students and DE supporters in the Life gymnasium, “Remember it ain’t over till it’s over.”[76]

Rather than admitting his outdated brand of curriculum eschews primary care physician responsibilities, or the fact that he operates a college with overly-crowded classrooms with too few competent instructors, espouses a routine cookie-cutter subluxation-only diagnosis in his under-regulated student clinics, and subscribes openly to nepotism with greed and cronyism reigning supreme in his administration, Williams’ camouflage of the real issues was obviously designed to hoodwink students and sycophantic followers.

Even after Life had lost its accreditation, Williams remained in denial of his shoddy educational program despite the obvious facts. “I do not think the academics of this university are deficient. The program at Life University is far beyond many of the accredited universities. Students get a superior education.”[77]

While Williams espoused his delusional beliefs, the scores on the national board exams proved differently according to the editors of the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

A report submitted in May to the Council on Chiropractic Education shows Life students trailed behind the national average in each section of the National Board Part I exam administered in spring 2001…In the anatomy portion of the exam, 83 percent of Life students passed on a first attempt, 7 percent below the national mean. Students also trailed behind their peers in the physiology, chemistry, pathology and public health portions, the report shows.[78]

Not many chiropractors and officials were fooled by his spin. According to the AJC:

Linda Denham, a past president of the Georgia Board of Chiropractic Examiners, [and Life grad] pointed to the below-average passing rates of students on the national exams. “All you have to do is look at the numbers,” she said. “The numbers don’t lie. The numbers don’t have a philosophy.”[79]

 Fortunately, not all students were deceived by Williams’ spin as evident by the massive exodus of hundreds of students, some of whom filed class action lawsuits against Williams and Life as noted in the Marietta Daily Journal, “75 Join Suit Against Life—Seek Class-Action Status.”

We believed we were paying a tremendous amount of money for graduate program. We expected a first-rate education. And as it turned out, we were getting a second-rate education. The pulling of accreditation only confirms the fact that we were getting a second-rate education.[80]

The poor quality of education was not lost on legitimate chiropractic educators like David Seaman, MS, DC, Palmer-Florida instructor, and ACA Academician of the Year in 2006:

“As for students, this situation was a monumental disaster. 22-year-olds enter chiropractic college, expecting a professional education, but are exposed to the insanity. They desire to keep an open mind, but are bombarded with dogma by the straights.”[81]

The loss of accreditation created a tsunami of problems not only for the image of chiropractic and Life as a diploma mill, but for the Life students who suffered greatly as this note from this concerned Life student mentioned:

I am in the thirteenth quarter and can proudly say that I never drank the “purple Kool-Aid”.  The majority of my fellow classmates share the same sentiment.  Right now they’re alot of very good future Doctors of Chiropractic who may not reach their dreams because of the actions of one man.  That is the ultimate tragedy…Most of us were clueless to the shenanigans of Sid when we came here and are now stuck hoping and praying we can make it out.[82] 

With the public opinion turning against him, many of Williams’ advisors urged him to step down, including the editors of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

In order to save Life University, the school of chiropractic founded by ‘Dr. Sid’ Williams, the entire family must surrender control. Williams’ resignation alone is not enough…If the school is to survive, it can no longer be the family business. The founder and his family must separate themselves immediately from the day-to-day operations. Otherwise, the school will die, along with Williams’ dream and the careers of thousands of students. [83]

This charade at the world’s largest chiropractic college was a stake in the heart to chiropractic’s reputation in Georgia and nationally. The impact upon the image of chiropractic education was tarnished badly due to this fiasco and would later haunt the profession when Florida State University (FSU) attempted to institute a graduate level chiropractic program only a few years later. Actually, the Florida Chiropractic Association began the FSU chiropractic program effort in response to the chaotic situation at Life College caused by the infamous leadership of the Williams clan. Rather than a blessing for the southeast, this college became an embarrassment that set back the acceptance of chiropractic terribly.

Dr. Williams resigned as President of Life University as a direct result of this incident and the corporate board which had loosely governed the university was dissolved. A legal appeal kept the accreditation in force until October of that year, but by November enrollment at the school had fallen to 865 students.

In a lawsuit filed by Life against CCE in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Judge Charles E. Moye, Jr. granted an injunction on February 10, 2003, retroactively restoring Life’s accreditation.

It should be noted that the selection of Judge Moye was viewed suspiciously by those involved—he was called from retirement, he had never done a case such as this with a federal agency, never had a federal agency been overruled by such a judge and, most strangely, he called the hearing on a Monday morning at 8 AM for a hearing to commence the same day at 10 AM in Atlanta. Needless to say, the CCE federal agency in Washington, DC, had no forewarning of this hearing, so at the last moment it had to rely upon an assistant federal attorney in Atlanta who had no background in this case. To say the least, the agency’s case had been blind-sided by this court.

Evident by those in attendance, the judge seemed to be more concerned about the economic impact of the college upon the community instead of the findings of the CCE. Some believe that Williams’ generosity with campaign donations throughout his career may have influenced the court’s decision, but the reasoning behind the judge’s decision may never be known since he immediately sealed the court records and prohibited anyone from discussing the case—very suspicious conduct, indeed. Some believed this was done to keep other skeletons in Life’s closet from being revealed.

Williams argued to the court and the media that the loss of CCE accreditation was due to its wish to eliminate “straight” chiropracTIC education. In the AJC article, Williams made the CCE his scapegoat, an agency he claimed had “run amok”:

“It is now painfully obvious that the accrediting body has an agenda that includes no other goals but putting Life University out of business,” Williams said, adding that the council’s decision “will set chiropractic back many decades.”
“The actions of the CCE, with the impact they have had on the lives of thousands, and with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake in the education marketplace, demand the scrutiny of all government agencies,” Williams said in a statement Wednesday.
Williams also listed a litany of concerns and issues that he said will be the subject of extensive debate and possible litigation over the next couple of months.
For example, he argues that the council is discriminating against conservative schools that base their chiropractic education on the traditional “subluxation” approach, which contends that many ailments can be solved with adjustments to the spinal vertebrae.
The council “wants to drive chiropractic education across the traditional boundaries at the expense of core ideas of chiropractic,” Williams wrote. [84]

It should be noted that this case was not an indictment on the entire chiropractic profession as Williams suggested, but it was a denunciation on one instance of bad chiropractic education. Chiropractic was simply the discipline being taught in this case and the inadequacy of the educational training was solely the issue. Instead of admitting his educational institution was inferior, Williams’ spin was CCE was a rogue accrediting commission.

The CCE’s response to the motion for a preliminary injunction by Williams and Life’s allegations painted a much different story than the spin from Life:

 Far from being an accrediting agency that has “run amok,” CCE has afforded Life multiple opportunities over a period of more than seven years to address concerns about its compliance with accrediting standards.[85]

Williams’ own academic deans analyzed the situation and made recommendations to save Life, but in every instance Williams refused to follow their advice or that of the three CCE consultants, and even ridiculed the legislative help offered by the Georgia Board of Chiropractic Examiners. As one CCE adviser to Life, Meredith Gonyea, PhD, mentioned, “If anyone claims to be blindsided in this matter, it’s only because he was wearing blinders.”[86]

The faculty at Life knew the CCE Commission on Accreditation had spoken the truth on the matter since they worked with Williams’ clan daily and saw the incompetence. They also tired of the untruths and misinformation that came from the Williams’ clan. Disgruntled staff and faculty members also filed lawsuits allegedly for wrongful dismissal and anti-Semitic remarks made to Jewish professors by Williams.[87],[88],[89] Meanwhile, the Williams’ clan underpaid those teachers who remained; reportedly PhDs at Life earn twenty-five percent less than junior high school teachers in Cobb County.

When his faculty openly criticized and sued Williams, it was obvious the administration at this diploma mill had run amok. An appraisal of this sad situation appeared in the Marietta Daily Journal, “An Open Letter to the Chiropractic Profession and the Public in Response to Dr. Sid E. Williams & his Supporters,” of which an excerpt appears below:

We as faculty are tired of the ivory tower policies. We are tired of watching our school and countless individuals suffer due to selfish interests. We admonish those still in a position to do something about this predicament to take Dr. Williams’ example as what NOT to do. It’s time to change. It’s time to move beyond Sid Williams. The past is just that and we feel a call to arms in the name of what is right. 

The argument is not about philosophy of chiropractic, but about the level of quality of chiropractic care the public deserves.  We maintain the public deserves the highest quality of care possible.  Therefore, we ask Dr. Williams and his supporters to stop turning their lack of professional integrity into a philosophical debate—a facade that has placed the lives of many in a precarious struggle.

 It was Dr. Williams, his administration and the Board of Trustees at Life University who repeatedly failed to act when the Council on Chiropractic Education cited specific weaknesses in the educational processes at Life. Weaknesses that he and the Board did not allow the faculty to correct. It is time for the likeminded students, faculty and constituents of Life that remain here to stand up. It may be our last chance. We have the ability and talent to create a vibrant institution; we need only be allowed to do what needs to be done. We care deeply about this institution and this profession and pray that we will all do the right thing.

 [signed] Concerned Faculty of Life University [90]

Needless to add, the pleas from the faculty fell on deaf ears. Williams’ stance proved defenseless, the college lost its accreditation, students fled like rats off a sinking ship, many students filed a class action lawsuit against Williams, faculty and staff jobs were lost, and the image of the entire chiropractic profession suffered when its largest college went down.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, this autocrat never did admit his guilt, still in denial as to the real cause of the loss of accreditation:

Williams never accepted responsibility for the chiropractic program’s losing its accreditation. It wasn’t his management style or his views on chiropractic that caused the program to get in hot water with the Council on Chiropractic Education, he said.

“I have opinions, and very strong opinions, but I’d rather not comment, other than it was the decision of the chiropractic commission on accreditation. It was their decision.

“Obviously, I’d be a poor president if I didn’t believe that we should have been accredited. We all put a superb effort into this. We had plenty of time to prepare and we were superb. But in their opinion, it wasn’t good enough. I’m not accusing anybody of anything. I’m not accusing the commission of any wrongdoing, except we believe we made it,” Williams said. [91]

After Williams was fired, his settlement nearly bankrupted the struggling college when he received a $5 million from Life for his interest in the college. The Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Charles Ribley, noted in a Marietta Daily Journal article concerning the huge $5 million settlement:

“I think it showed a lack of integrity, and I don’t think he is being responsible to the school he founded…It’s a large expense for the school,” Ribley said. “It is causing a considerable dent.” Ribley said he could not speculate whether the school could make all of its payments. “It is questionable whether we can afford the payments because of the unpredictability of student enrollment,” he said.[92]

Just as BJ Palmer outlived his usefulness at Palmer School of Chiropractic, the same can be said of Sid Williams who outlived his value to the chiropractic education and became a liability to the reputation and future growth of Life University. His tragic flaws of arrogance and stubbornness proved to be fatal and his so-called “Lasting Purpose” had proven to be the profession’s lethal predicament.

A fighter all his life, Williams’ 28-year reign came to an end not as the glorious president of the largest chiropractic college in the world as he would have had it, but as a broken and embarrassed man seen by all as a greedy tyrant and academic imposter. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution,

He said he was disappointed his planned exit follows the loss of accreditation. “I’ve had some…defeats in life. This is one of the more bitter of those, because it comes from my colleagues, the chiropractors,” Williams said. [93]

            Life historian Charles Thomas was prophetic on the fall of Williams and Life College years before it actually happened. In 1995, he saw the writing on the walls of Life that few others could read among the epigrams:

The history of Life College that I had been hired to research and compile could never, in the end, be written–not the truth, at least not as commissioned by the man who had all unknowingly hired me. The saga was a witch’s brew that immediately began to seep down through the fissures of insanity in the cauldron where it had been concocted. Its parent Dynamic Essentials was appalling without being arresting, a cult without the grand vision (however it had ultimately been twisted) of a Jonestown–blind conformity without the guts for spiked Kool-Aid. The college itself was a fantastic Cerberean monster: one head a circus of nepotistic managerial incompetence, another a neo-spiritualist bone-popping medicine show, and the third itself a tri-level triumph of trans-national medical fraud, extorting fortunes from, in turn, student tuition, government loans, and hordes of gullible “patients”. It was a story that should and could not be told between the leather-bound covers of a reverential, commemorative volume on the college’s twentieth anniversary and the chiropractic centennial. It was rather a syllabus on the pitfalls of personalized management, an essay on the sociology of cults, or the transcript-in-waiting of hearings by the appropriate state and federal authorities (with the IRS sitting in)–or perhaps all of the above, under the umbrella of a national television news exposé. [94]

Few chiropractors have forgotten the turmoil in 2002 when Life University lost its accreditation causing thousands of students and faculty to flee to other colleges despite the hallow claims of the embattled Life administration blaming both accreditation agencies that had placed Life on public sanction for numerous academic violations.

After a change of the guard at Life and a lot of work to upgrade its deficiencies, on November 12, 2005, the CCE’s Commission on Accreditation formally re-accredited the Doctor of Chiropractic program at Life University College of Chiropractic. In 2004, enrollment had risen back up to approximately 3100 students.[95]

More importantly, the academics at Life are now rated by national board scores to be in the middle of all chiropractic colleges, a vast improvement. Under the leadership of President Guy Riekeman and Provost Brian McAulay, Life has spearheaded an innovative Functional Neurology Research with Dr. Ted Carrick that features treatment for intracranial problems. (see Academic Spring)

Life has made a huge comeback after an embarrassing fall from academic and professional grace. Like most despots, Sid Williams refused to follow the mandates of the regional and national accrediting agencies due to his “rule or ruin” attitude. This trouble was not only a wake-up call to Life University, but it was a long overdue call for reform for the profession.

Chiropractic’s Call for Reform

The call for reform within chiropractic has been heard since the days of BJ Palmer, and accentuated during the firestorm at Life. Unfortunately, ethical and hard-working chiropractors are tarnished from both sides—as they say down South, “caught between a rock and a hard place.” If it is not political medicine or the media bashing chiropractic, other chiropractors find ways to embarrass our profession as seen with Sid Williams.

In 1992, George McAndrews, the ACA’s legal counsel, wrote in the ACA Journal his opinion of chiropractic’s beleaguered image:

I believe this is the era of image. It is time for the ‘dewierdization’ of the profession…An aura of ‘weirdness’ is the necessary consequence of some chiropractic literature, advertisements… a sampling of yellow page ads makes one wonder if chiropractors are financial advisors or health care professionals… it is time to isolate the rascals.[99]

Undoubtedly his sentiment of the “rascals” explained why Mr. McAndrews once proclaimed “5% of you are cultists, 5% of you are freaks, and the rest of you, who offer care that uplifts the quality of life for millions of Americans, keep your mouths shut.”[100] Fortunately, neither George nor his brother, Jerry, kept their mouths shut on this important issue.

Mr. McAndrews again challenged the profession when he said, “Chiropractic is a health care profession that is based on scientific principles. It is not a religion”:

Cute phrases like ‘Above-down, inside-out’ or  ‘The Big Idea,’ may be soul-stirring at chiropractic conclaves; they are meaningless to economic experts (or even to HMOs) who must deal with the real problems of health care costs. It is the demagogues who fear real research and fear advances in real knowledge who threaten your philosophy and your profession. Fact has a way of squeezing myth.[101]

Jerry McAndrews also disliked the anti-anything-medical dogma stance the straight demagogues took on every issue:

For all these problems, the reward seems to be an image more of ‘anti-medicine’ and ‘anti-science’ than one of ‘pro-chiropractic.’ The confusion to the public and the power brokers is extreme. They simply will not tolerate anecdotal stories about the lack of benefits of the mainstream health delivery system. [102]

Others have mentioned the need for chiropractic to clean up its act of undocumented claims. Dr. Keating, columnist for the Dynamic Chiropractic, has long railed against the unsubstantiated claims made by many chiropractors.  In his article, “It Works, It Works, It Works,” he mentioned Mr. McAndrews’ plight to make chiropractic’s case in court while withstanding the unsubstantiated claims, and warned that the “chiropractic profession dearly needs an attitude adjustment”:

Will Mr. McAndrews’ warning against unsubstantiated claims be heard in chiropractic?…The anti-scientific traditions in the profession are very strong, and although blatant anti-competitive activities by AMA et al. have been ruled illegal, criticism of the chiropractic profession (and posting of “killer subluxation” advertisements on hospital bulletin boards) are clearly within the free speech prerogatives of any would-be critics. The more we stretch the available scientific data to support “what we always knew was true,” the more we can expect to be held up to ridicule. The chiropractic profession dearly needs an attitude adjustment.[103]

Regrettably, these issues have shrouded the mainstream chiropractic profession image and its proven effectiveness with musculoskeletal disorders. This imagery has kept alive the medical bias that impedes the integration of chiropractic care into the mainstream healthcare delivery system. Indeed, it is very difficult to gain public acceptance when the most vocal leaders appear eccentric and bizarre.

Keating admitted the call for reform in chiropractic is difficult to accomplish when basic survival is at stake:

Chiropractors have gained some credibility in recent years as providers of quality health care services for patients with disorders of the musculoskeletal system. However, the chiropractic profession has long been and continues to be ridiculed for advocating the broader clinical utility of manipulative procedures, for example, for patients with cancer, diseases of the viscera, cardiovascular disorders and psychiatric conditions.[104]

Indeed, unsubstantiated claims for chiropractic care and uncritical attitudes toward practice standards are actively encouraged at some of our institutions of ‘higher learning.’  It wasn’t so long ago that a college president suggested, “Rigor mortis is the only thing we can’t help!”  But I can recall no great outcry or objection from neither the ranks nor the leadership of the profession.[105]

 When up to one’s elbows in alligators, one doesn’t worry about water temperature; in the face of continuing criticism from medicine, chiropractors have been reluctant to engage in the sorts of self-criticism and self-analysis from which genuine philosophy and science must grow. [106]

Louis Sportelli, former ACA chairman, past president of the World Federation of Chiropractic, and a columnist in the Dynamic Chiropractic journal, has long written of the ethical dilemmas facing chiropractic. In a 1991 column, Dr. Sportelli wrote about “The Collective Image of the Profession”:

If I had to select one area to which I would direct our energies, it would be to enhance the personal image of the DC and the collective image of the profession. My objective would be to build a better knowledge of chiropractic benefits with the consumer and a better working relationship with the medical community.

This is not to say that there still is not medical opposition to chiropractic. But this new decade needs to be fought not with confrontational debates about what the AMA did 30 years ago, but rather on the basis of current research which validates the therapeutic effectiveness of the chiropractic spinal manipulation for a variety of conditions. And we need to go even one step farther: to dare to say that chiropractic spinal manipulation is better than all the conventional treatment provided previously.[107]

In 1995, he also wrote of the challenge the chiropractic profession faces from within by chiropractic’s own demagogues and scalawags in an intriguing article, “The Pursuit of Image, Chiropractic in the Next Millennium”:

I issue a warning to the chiropractic demagogues who still have their claws on elements of our profession; those who use their ‘celebrity’ status to undermine ethics and values; those whose voices are loud, but whose messages are abusive: You do not speak for modern chiropractic, any more than Hollywood speaks for America. [108]

Many chiropractors have accepted the responsibility to raise the educational standards, increase research output, improve patient care excellence, and to bolster the professional image. In fact, many chiropractors today are employed as primary care physicians, public health officials, some work alongside MDs in the VA and military health services, and many in the growing field of sports medicine.

The reform of chiropractic is growing. J. Michael Flynn, DC, past chairman of the ACA and current president of the World Federation of Chiropractic, noted the improvement of the profession:

We are maturing as a profession, and I believe that by the end of this decade our advances will find doctors of chiropractic among the most respected of the healing arts for the services they provide.  Continued research, legislative success, a growing public relations effort and the profession coming together for Summit meetings, harnessing our collective strengths as a profession, are excellent signs. 

From the office of attending physicians in the U.S. Capitol to the Medical Director of the USOC, and much in-between, there are indications that our profession is on the cusp of greatness for patients in need of chiropractic care.  Yes, today we are not fulfilling our capacity and we have been part of the problem by our immaturity and our failure to organize in significant numbers.  One of the AMA’s covert strategies was to “encourage disunity” and watch them “wither on the vine.”  We have not withered, but we have yet to fully bloom.[109]

The ear of the demagogues and scalawags is over. It is now time for more academic progress and meaningful reform. It is time for chiropractic to bloom.




[1] George McAndrews, speech before ACA Convention, Vancouver, B.C., (July 20, 1998)

[2] Mark Goodin,  “Winning The Battle In Legislative And Regulatory Arenas,” Journal of the American Chiropractic Association, (July, 1929):45-47.

[3] V Gielow, “Old Dad Chiro: a biography of D.D. Palmer,” Davenport IA., Bawden Brothers, (1981):115-116.

[4] DD Palmer, The Chiropractor’s Adjuster: The Science, Art and Philosophy of Chiropractic, Portland, Oregon, Portland Printing House Company (1910):629

[5] From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Daniel David Palmer or D.D. Palmer (March 7, 1845 – October 20, 1913) was the founder of Chiropractic.

[6]  AJ Terrett, “The Genius of D. D. Palmer: An Exploration of the Origin of Chiropractic in His Time,” Chiropractic History 11/1 (Jun 1991):31-8.

[7] JC Keating, “Courtrooms & Legislative Halls.” in: B.J. of Davenport, the Early Years of Chiropractic. Assoc. for the History of Chiropractic, Davenport, Iowa. (1997):123.

[8] ChiropracTIC is synonymous with straight, hands-only chiropractic.

[9] JC Keating, “ B.J. of Davenport: The Early Years of Chiropractic,” (AHC, 1997)                                     

[10] Ibid. 315.

[11] Palmer, ibid. p. 728

[12] “Palmer Damage Suit Dismissed,’ Davenport Democrat & Leader (Dec. 28, 1914):14.

[13] Joseph Keating, Jr., PhD, “Dispelling Some Myths About Old Dad Chiro,” Dynamic Chiropractic  11/09 (April 23, 1993)

[14] L.M. Rogers, D.C. authors “Editorial” Journal of the National Chiropractic Association, 31/7 (July, 1961):5

[15] Keating ,ibid., p. 16.

[16] “Davenport History 2”. Quad City Memory. Retrieved 2007-12-18.

[17] BJ Palmer, “Advertise,” Fountain Head News, AC 22; 6/15 (Dec 16, 1916):1

[18] Theresa Gromala, “Broadsides, Epigrams, and Testimonials:  The Evolution of Chiropractic Advertising,”  Chiropractic History, 4/1 (1984): 40-45

[19] Joseph Keating, Jr., PhD, “Building the Palmer Enterprises, 1913-1924 – Part 1,” Dynamic Chiropractic   17/13 (June 14, 1999): 16

[20] CE Moyers, DC, President & General Manager of the Universal Chiropractic College (UCC) (Dec 10, 1912)

[21] J.M. McLeese, D.C., National (School) Journal of Chiropractic includes: a National grad and future resident and owner of Texas Chiropractic College, authors “Live and let live” (Sept 1917): 6-8.

[22] Joseph C. Keating, Jr., Ph.D. “The Gestation & Difficult Birth of the American Chiropractic Association,” National Institute of Chiropractic Research

[23] For clarification, both Palmers referred to “straights” as “chiropracTORs” who did only specific spinal adjustments and practiced “principled chiropracTIC,” eschewed adjunctive therapies, and accused those chiropractors who performed a diagnosis of practicing medicine. Those chiropractors, who did full spine “manipulation” similar to osteopaths, adjunctive therapies, and diagnostics, were known within the profession as “mixers.”

[24] Pierre-Louis Gaucher-Peslherbe, DC, PhD, “Chiropractic: Early Concepts in Their Historical Setting,” National College of Chiropractic publisher, (1993):159-60

[25] OG Clark, DC, Fountain Head News [A.C. 25] includes reprint of letter  9/10 (Nov 22, 1919):

[26]  W.J. McCartney DC (National (College) Journal of Chiropractic 11/5  authors “Housecleaning from another angle” (Dec 1922): 4-7.

[27] Reed Phillips, ”Education and the Chiropractic Profession,” Dynamic Chiropractic 16/7 (March 23, 1998)

[28] J Moore, “The Neurocalometer: Watershed in the Evolution of a New Profession.” Chiropr Hist 15/2(1995):51–4.

[29] W. Heath Quigley, “The Last Days of BJ Palmer: Revolutionary Confronts Reality,” Journal of Chiropractic History 9/2 (1989):12.

[30] Kathleen Crisp, “Lyceums: Origins of Chiropractic Continuing Education,” Today’s Chiropractic 19/6

(November/December 1990).

[31] Gevitz, ibid. p. 165.

[32] “Time for a New Deal,” Bulletin of the ACA [1(2)]: reprinted (July 1924)  from the UCC Bulletin of (May, 1924):8

[33] Craig M Kightlinger, DC, PhC, President of New York-Eastern Chiropractic Institute, authors “Natural Law” (1928):9-10.

[34] Charles H Wood DC, Chirogram publishes “Chiropractic Philosophy” (Feb 1929):1.

[35] Lillard T. Marshall, DC, Journal of the National Chiropractic Association ,BA Sauer DC, editor, 1/6 (Sept 1931)

[36] W. Franklin Morris, D.C. of Oakland authors “Quo Vadis: The Chiropractic Legal Pathway In California” which discusses the Steele case in San Jose court (1934:24).

[37] W.A. Budden, D.C., N.D., president of Western States College,  The Chiropractic Journal (NCA) 4/2 (Feb 1935): 9-10, 38

[38] L.M. Rogers, DC, editorial  discusses politics between ICA and Georgia Chiropractic Association Journal of the National Chiropractic Association 28/3 (Mar 1958): 6, 75

[39] Charles Thomas, ibid. p. 36.

[40] Russell Gibbons, “Assessing the Oracle at the Fountainhead: BJ Palmer and His Times,” Journal of Chiropractic History 7/1 (1987).

[41] Scott Haldeman, “Modern Developments in the Principles and Practice of Chiropractic,” Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York (1980): 10

[42] Orval L. Hidde, D.C. “A Last-Stand Blast By Mr. Head Tic, Himself, Fades To A Faint Whisper In The Field,” Journal of the National Chiropractic Association 29/1 (1959 Jan): 12, 68; a response to B.J. Palmer’s “Shall Chiropractic Survive?”; reprinted from the November-December 19 issue of the Wisconsin Chiropractor.

[43] Charles Thomas, ibid. p. 36.

[44] LM Rogers, DC, Editorial,  Journal of the National Chiropractic Association 31/7 (July 1961): 5.

[45] J. McAndrews via personal communication with JC Smith,(May 8, 1998)

[46] Mark Goodin,  “Winning The Battle In Legislative And Regulatory Arenas,” Journal of the American Chiropractic Association, (July 1992): 45-47.

[47] Bette Harrison,  “The ‘Life’ and Times of Sid Williams”, The Atlanta Constitution (Jan. 17, 1995)


[49] Charles Thomas, “Life College: Inside an American Cult,” unpublished manuscript, (1993):9-11.

[50] Sid E. Williams, Health (July 1993)

[51] Sid E. Williams, Campus Life, (December 1993)

[52] Associated Press, “ACA Disavows Dr. Sid Williams,” (April 1, 1994)



[53] Charles Lantz, DC, PhD, private communication with JC Smith (July 2002)

[54] “60 Minutes Visits Life College, Dr. Williams,” Today’s Chiropractic (March/April 1979)

[55] David Martin, “Millions of Avid ’60 Minutes Fans Give ‘the Devil’ His Due,” Marietta Daily Journal, (March 1, 1979)

[56] Charles Thomas, ibid. p. 164.

[57] Charles Thomas, ibid. p. 166.

[58] Lee Harrison, “Course Teaches Greedy Chiropractors How To Get Rich By Cheating Patients,” National Enquirer, (Nov. 18, 1980)

[59] Ibid.

[60] Bette Harrison,  “The ‘Life’ and Times of Sid Williams”, The Atlanta Constitution (Jan. 17, 1995)

[61] MAJ McKenna, Ann Hardie, “Student DEBT”, The Atlanta Constitution (Jan. 18, 1995)

[62] The Associated Press, “Life College Students Lead Federal-loan Default List” (Jan. 19, 1995)

[63] Welch Suggs, “At Life U., an Omnipresent President Pushes the Institution and Its Specialty,” The Chronicle of Higher Education (October 8, 1999)

[64] Our Opinions: “University No Longer One Man’s Life,” AJC editorial (6-14-02)

[65] Welch Suggs, “At Life U., an Omnipresent President Pushes the Institution and Its Specialty,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 8, 1999.

[66] Editorial Staff, “Study IDs Most Important Factors in Chiropractic Student Performance,” Dynamic Chiropractic, 17/13 (June 14, 1999)

[67] A. May, “Raising the Bar: Pre-Chiropractic Admissions Requirements,” Journal of the American Chiropractic Association 36/10 (Oct 1999): 20, 22-24.

[68] S. Williams, “It’s Time to Put People First,” Today’s Chiropractic (March/April 1999):6-12.

[69] Sid E Williams, Quo Vadis, (December, 1993)

[70] Chris Joyner, Accreditation Agency Cites Problems At Life,” Marietta Daily Journal (6-22-01)

[71] Chris Joyner, ibid.

[72] Mike Sampogna, “Complaints vs. Life University Mount,” Marietta Daily Journal  (7-8-02)

[73] DM Marchiori, W Meeker, C Hawk, CR Long, “Research Productivity Of Chiropractic College Faculty,” J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 21/1 (Jan 1998):8-13.


[74] Joyner, ibid.

[75] David Burch,  “Life Founder Plans To Step Down: Group Says Move Won’t Affect Loss Of Accreditation,” MDJ online, (6-14-02)

[76] “Accreditation Trouble Roils Life Students: Don’t Give Up, Graduates Told,” AJC (6-17-02)

[77] “Life University Founder Steps Back From Helm,” AJC (6-15-02 )

[78] Our Opinions: “University No Longer One Man’s Life,” AJC (6-14-02)

[79] “Life U Reports Sub-Par Scores: National Exam Pass Rates Cited,”  AJC (6-15-02)

[80] Phillip Giltman,  “75 Join Suit Against Life * Seek Class-Action Status,” Marietta Daily Journal (November 1, 2002)

[81] David Seaman via  private communication with JC Smith  (2008)

[82] Anonymous Life student via private communication with JC Smith (2002)

[83] Our Opinions: “University no longer one man’s life,” AJC editorial  (6-14-02)


[84] “Students File Suit Against Life U,” AJC  (Nov. 30, 2002)

[85] Phillip Giltman, “CCE Responds In Open Letter to Life Criticism,” Marietta Daily Journal  (November 15, 2002)

[86] Private communication (2002)

[87] Jeffrey Widmer, “Former Professors Suing Life,” Marietta Daily Journal (January 12, 2001)

[88] From staff reports, “Judge: Ex-Life U. Professors Can Sue University founder,” Marietta Daily Journal, (December 20, 2002)

[89] From staff reports, “Life U. Bias Suit Set To Go To Court,” Marietta Daily Journal (September 13, 2003)

[90] Phillip Giltman, “Faculty Members: Only Life To Blame: Dispute Notion School Was Unfairly targeted,” Marietta Daily Journal (November 2, 2002)

[91] “Life U Severs Ties To Leader Williams Quits, At Least For Now,” AJC  (7-9-02)

[92] “Chair Blasts Life Founder’s Compensation Williams, Wife Will Receive Nearly $5M,” Marietta Daily Journal (Feb. 21, 2003)

[93] “Life to Team with Chiropractic College,” AJC (6-26-02)

[94] Charles Thomas, ibid. p. 264.

[95] Life University Information, U.S. College Search,


[97] “What Leaders Make,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, (November 21, 2008)

[98] Tom Klapp via personal communication with JC Smith (12-11-09)

[99] George McAndrews, Journal of the American Chiropractic Association, 1992.

[100] George McAndrews, speech before ACA Convention, Vancouver, B.C., July 20, 1998.

[101] George McAndrews via private communication with JC Smith, March 24, 1992

[102] J. McAndrews via private communication. May 11, 1993

[103] JC Keating and TF Bergmann, “It Works, It Works, It Works!” Dynamic    Chiropractic (Sept. 25, 1992)

[104] JC Keating,  “Palmer’s Forgotten Theories of Chiropractic,” A Presentation to the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College ( February 18, 1995)

[105] JC Keating, D.C. Magazine (3/11/94)

[106] JC Keating,  “The Evolution of Palmer’s Metaphors and Hypotheses,” Philosophical Constructs for the Chiropractic Profession 2/1 (Summer 1992):9-19.

[107] Louis Sportelli, “The Collective Image of the Profession,” Dynamic Chiropractic, 9/17 (August 16, 1991):

[108] Louis Sportelli, “The Pursuit of Image, Chiropractic in the Next Millennium,” JACA 32/5 (May 1995): 29.

[109] Michael Flynn via private communication with JC Smith (9-13-2010)