The Emergence of Marjoe

marjoe gortner, baby names, 1970s
Marjoe Gortner, preaching, 1971

The rare name Marjoe has appeared in the U.S. baby name just twice, both times in the mid-1970s:

  • 1976: unlisted
  • 1975: 6 baby boys named Marjoe
  • 1974: 6 baby boys named Marjoe [debut]
  • 1973: unlisted

This name is similar to Uldine in that both are associated with something rather unusual: child preachers.

In the case of Marjoe, the influence was child preacher-turned-actor Marjoe Gortner.

He was born Hugh Marjoe Ross Gortner to parents to Vernon and Marge of California in 1944. According to an early source, the middle name “Marjoe” was based on the name of his mother Marge. (His younger siblings were named Vernoe and Starloe.) Later sources claim “Marjoe” was a combination of Mary and Joseph.

Marjoe Gortner was a precocious child, and his family was full of preachers, so his parents (putting two and two together) decided to turn Marjoe into a child preacher. By the age of four, he was an ordained minister and could deliver about 40 different sermons from memory. His entire childhood was spent evangelizing.

By the early 1970s, Marjoe Gortner was in his late 20s and only in it for the money. In the autobiographical documentary Marjoe (1972), he gave viewers a behind-the-scenes look at “the lucrative business of Pentecostal preaching.” It earned critical acclaim and won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in early 1973, but wasn’t screened in many theaters.

Following the success of the documentary, Marjoe pursued an acting career. He was most visible in the mid-1970s, appearing mainly on television. He could be seen on episodes of various TV shows (like Nakia, in 1974) and in several made-for-TV movies (like The Gun and the Pulpit, also in 1974).

What are your thoughts on the name Marjoe?

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2 thoughts on “The Emergence of Marjoe

  1. Although I think Marjoe is far better than Vernoe or Starloe, I have to admit that before reading this I absolutely would have thought it was a girls name.

    And I think the names of his younger siblings definitely casts great doubt on the theory of his name being a combination of Mary & Joseph. Of course that explanation was undoubtedly better from a marketing standpoint.

  2. You’re instincts are right — overall, most of the people named “Marjoe” have indeed been female (according to the records I’ve seen).

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