"The church is routinely called a cult — a difficult claim to dispute. Many of its members live together on the grounds of its enclosed Fouke compound. Alamo is the only person in the church allowed to give interviews; the children who live on the property are schooled there; most media other than Alamo’s screeds and the King James Bible are banned, and church members are generally shielded from wider society. (“I didn’t know who was president when I got out,” said one follower who left the church in the 1970s.) Even while in prison Alamo was able to exert his influence. “He could be in outer space and control everything,” said a longtime church member, who estimated that the Alma compound housed about 300 people.
Websites have appeared smearing ex-followers, and Alamo has been known to publicly berate them. More, Alamo has a history of confiscating the children of people who quit the church. In one incident earlier this year, sources in Fouke and at the Miller County sheriff’s office say, the FBI became involved in a standoff between Alamo and a man who tried to take his children from the compound. (An FBI spokesman said he could not comment.)
Alamo’s cozy relationship with former Fouke Mayor Cecil Smith also had some town residents worried. On one occasion, Smith authorized the use of a Fouke firetruck to water a piece of Alamo property without telling the fire department. (Smith said there was nothing wrong with this and that Alamo paid for the water.)
Significant Alamo donations to the town have given the impression of a pay-for-play scheme. Most notably, he gave $60,000 — about 30 percent of Fouke’s entire general fund — to build a park.
Relations between Fouke and the church were not always completely chilly — on one occasion an Alamo minister invited residents to attend a gospel-singing session. But, despite his largesse, Alamo was rarely seen in town, and his church members never shopped in Fouke stores.
By the time mayoral elections rolled around in November 2006, tensions were high. Locals, believing a new mayor was needed to restrain Alamo’s perceived influence, campaigned in favor of Terry Purvis, a longtime town council member.
The marquee campaign issue was a controversy over a street that leads through Alamo property. Although the street was previously accessible to the public, the church restricted its use; on one occasion, a Fouke resident said, an inhabitant of the property confronted her with a gun when she ventured up the disputed road.
Purvis won, but the new mayor was unable to halt the Alamo agenda. When a council member stepped down without announcing his intentions, Ben Edwards, a longtime member of Alamo’s church, registered for the seat just before the deadline and ran unopposed. Several council members have voted with Edwards on important town issues, including the right of way issue through Alamo’s land. After Purvis received a letter from Alamo’s lawyer threatening suit if a survey to determine ownership of the street proceeded, the council voted 5-3 to drop the matter."