Grahm's Guide
to Historic Sites

Madalyn Murray O'Hair and American Atheists

 

The History

     In 1960, an atheistic communist, going by the name Madalyn Murray, returned to Baltimore, Maryland after a failed attempt to defect to the Soviet Union.  Upon learning that that her son was mandated to recite the Lord’s Prayer in school, she launched a lawsuit, Murray v. Curlett, to end the requirement.  Her case would be end up in the U.S. Supreme Court as part of the Abington School District v. Schempp case, and the 1963 decision effectively ended the mandatory prayers in school.

     While the case of Edward Schempp was more important to the court, Murray became the more recognized figure.  In 1963, Murray founded the Society of Separationists, which would later become the American Atheists, and by 1964, Time Magazine recognized the claim that she was "the most hated woman in America."  That notoriety was part of the reason that she left Baltimore, and she eventually landed in Austin, Texas, where she married Richard O'Hair in 1965.

 
 
 
 

The Locations

     Madalyn Murray O'Hair spent more than 30 years in Austin, Texas. 
     If you have any tips on locations that I missed, please contact me on the Grahm's Guide Facebook page.
     SPOILER ALERT: The descriptions below may include plot points of the Netflix original movie, The Most Hated Woman in America.

 

American Atheists Headquarters (1970s)
     In the 1970s, Madalyn Murray O'Hair ran the American Atheist magazine out of a small shop in Austin.  For an example, see the April 1977 issue, which the organization makes available on Scribd.
     The press was located at 4408 Medical Parkway, Austin, TX 78756, but American Atheists moved in the mid-'70s.
     Today, the building houses a frame shop that has no connection to the O'Hairs or American Atheists, but does have great Yelp reviews.

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American Atheists Headquarters (1976 - 1988)
     In the mid-1970s, the American Atheist headquarters moved to a larger facility a mile away.
     The headquarters was at 2210 Hancock Drive, Austin, TX 78756.  (By coincidence, this is located next door to the Americana Theatre seen in Dazed and Confused.)
 

 

American Atheists Headquarters (1988 - 1995)
     In 1988, the O'Hairs purchased a new American Atheists General Headquarters (AAGHQ).  It would be the organization's final headquarters in Austin.
     The headquarters was located at 7215 Cameron Rd, Austin, TX 78752Here is video of the building from 2008 when a former worker returned to the site.
     Reference:  I first learned of the location from The Crime Buff's Guide to Outlaw Texas by Ron Franscell.

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The O'Hair Home
    Madalyn Murray O'Hair lived in a large home with her son Jon, and her granddaughter, Robin (the daughter of her son, William Murray, who became a Christian in 1980).
     The elegant home is located at 3702 Greystone Drive, Austin, TX 78731.
     Reference:  I first learned of the location from The Crime Buff's Guide to Outlaw Texas by Ron Franscell.
     Please respect the property and privacy of the residents of this private home.

 

Extras
     Murray's life was interesting enough, but it was the manner of her death that overshadowed much of her life.
     The story has been turned into a fictionalized account in a Netflix original movie, The Most Hated Woman in America, with Melissa Leo as the infamous O'Hair.