John Singer was born in New York on 6 January 1931. He was a member of
the Mormon Church who was later excommunicated for his fundamentalist
beliefs, including the practice of polygamy. Singer gained public
notoriety because of his stand against what he felt was the immorality of
the school system.
Singer was born to German immigrants. Singer's father, Hans, was part
of the Nazi movement, and as Hitler and the Nazi movement rose in power,
he moved his family back to Dresden in 1932. Singer's mother's religious
preference was Mormon; therefore, his childhood was filled with conflict
because his father forbade his mother to practice or teach her religious
Singer and his brother Harold were part of the Hitler Youth. Singer's
father was drafted in 1940 and, before leaving, enrolled his sons in a
school run by the Schutz Staffeln (SS). The brothers were expelled for
being rebellious, and Singer's hatred for authoritarianism developed from
this experience. His parents divorced in 1945 and Singer emigrated to the
In 1964 Singer married Vickie Lemon, who shared his religious views.
They quickly began a family which grew to seven children. Singer raised
his family in Marion, Utah, on a 2.5-acre farm, much like a
nineteenth-century homestead. Religion was important to Singer and his
He entered into a plural marriage in 1978 with Shirley Black, an
already married woman with four children.
Singer's stand against the public school system began a road of court
battles. His dissatisfaction with the school system escalated over a
picture in a textbook showing whites and blacks together. He confronted
the school superintendent and objected that his children were being
subjected to what he considered immoral secular influences. His legal
confrontations began when he declared that he would withdraw his children
from public school because the Constitution states that states cannot
interfere with religious beliefs. The state countered by showing him a
copy of the State Compulsory Attendance Law, which states that parents
with children ages 6 to 18 must send them to school.
Singer's defiance of the law and his determination to have his children
removed from the public school system led to his ostracism in the
community and eventual excommunication from the Mormon Church.
After his first arrest and court appearance, Singer was allowed to
teach his children at home under guidelines from the state which included
testing twice a year and evaluation by a psychologist. Even though his
children tested below average, the psychologist advised the school board
to continue the exemption. However, Singer grew dissatisfied with the
arrangement and felt that the state still had too much authority over his
children. He informed the psychologist that the family would no longer
comply with the state's program.
Singer faced new legal problems after 19 October 1978 when a district
court awarded Dean Black a decree of divorce from Shirley Black and
temporary custody of the couple's children.
When authorities went to the Singer farm to pick up the children,
Singer refused to surrender them.
On the morning of 18 January 1979 Singer was confronted outside his
home by Utah law enforcement officers. His home was surrounded and he was
told to surrender his weapon. Singer pointed a pistol at the officers and
the officers responded killing Singer with multiple gunshot wounds. His
wife Vickie was taken to jail and his children were placed in shelter
homes. John Singer was buried in the Marion cemetery on 22 January 1979.
See: David Fleisher and David M. Freedman, Death of an American: The
Killing of John Singer (1983).
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