Rutherford, Joseph Franklin, 1869–1942, American sectarian leader, b. Missouri. He became leader of the Jehovah's Witnesses (then called Russellites) after the death of the sect's founder, Charles T. Russell, in 1916. Under the direction of Rutherford the Witnesses' attack on the existing social order took on an increasingly revolutionary tone. In 1918 he served a year's imprisonment in Atlanta, Ga., for his encouragement of conscientious objectors. His writings were widely distributed among Witnesses in the United States and abroad.
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