Who Was David Koresh?

In 1990, David Koresh became the leader of the Branch Davidians. He and his followers built an "Army of God" by stockpiling weapons in preparation for the Apocalypse. On February 28, 1993, the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raided the Davidians' compound outside of Waco, Texas, resulting in a 51-day siege that drew national attention. The standoff ended when the compound erupted in flames on April 19. Koresh, who shot himself, was among the dozens found dead.

Early Years

Koresh was born Vernon Wayne Howell to an unwed teenage mother named Bonnie Clark, on August 17, 1959, in Houston, Texas.

Spending much of his early years with his grandparents, Koresh attended the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In his senior year, Koresh dropped out of Garland High School to take a carpentry job. While in his early 20s, he spent a short time in Los Angeles trying to make it as a rock star. He rejoined the Seventh-day Adventists after returning to Texas but was kicked out after butting heads with church leaders.

Branch Davidians

In the early 1980s, Koresh, then known as Vernon Howell, moved to Waco, Texas, and joined the Branch Davidians. He had an affair with the sect's much older prophetess, Lois Roden, and in 1984, he married a teenaged Branch Davidian named Rachel Jones, with whom he would have three children.

When Roden passed away, Koresh and Roden's son, George, argued about who would take over the Branch Davidians. Koresh left the sect with his followers and lived in eastern Texas for a while. In 1987, he and a handful of his devotees returned to Mount Carmel heavily armed and shot Roden, who survived the attack. Koresh and his crew were tried for attempted murder but were acquitted.

In 1990, he legally changed his name from Howell to Koresh (after the Persian king) and became the Branch Davidians' leader. Koresh's teachings included the practice of "spiritual weddings," which enabled him to bed God-chosen female followers of all ages. Koresh fathered at least a dozen children with members other than his legal wife.

David Koresh Photo
Branch Davidian founder David Koresh (L) during his first visit to Australia to recruit members. He was accompanied by Clive Doyle (R) on the trip.
Photo: Elizabeth Baranyai/Sygma via Getty Images

Waco Siege and Death

As leader of the Branch Davidians, Koresh claimed he had cracked the code of the Seven Seals in the Book of Revelation, which predicted events leading to the Apocalypse. He told his followers that the Lord willed the Davidians to build an "Army of God." As a result, they started stockpiling weapons.

On February 28, 1993, the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raided the Davidians' Mount Carmel compound near Waco, Texas. A four-hour gunfight left six of Koresh's followers and four BATF agents dead, leading to a 51-day standoff between Koresh and federal agents.

On April 19, 1993, the Federal Bureau of Investigation launched a tank and tear gas assault on Mount Carmel. Hours later, fires spread throughout the compound, killing more than six dozen inhabitants. Koresh was among those found dead, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.


  • Name: David
  • Birth Year: 1959
  • Birth date: August 17, 1959
  • Birth State: Texas
  • Birth City: Houston
  • Birth Country: United States
  • Gender: Male
  • Best Known For: Cult leader David Koresh led the Branch Davidians in a deadly 51-day standoff against the FBI and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
  • Astrological Sign: Leo
  • Schools
    • Garland High School
  • Death Year: 1993
  • Death date: April 19, 1993
  • Death State: Texas
  • Death City: Waco
  • Death Country: United States

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  • Article Title: David Koresh Biography
  • Author: Biography.com Editors
  • Website Name: The Biography.com website
  • Url: https://www.biography.com/crime/david-koresh
  • Access Date:
  • Publisher: A&E; Television Networks
  • Last Updated: January 19, 2021
  • Original Published Date: April 2, 2014


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