The Shooting Salvationist: J. Frank Norris and the Murder Trial that Captivated America [NOOK Book]


The Shooting Salvationist chronicles what may be the most famous story you have never heard. In the 1920’s, the Reverend J. Frank Norris railed against vice and conspiracies he saw everywhere to a congregation of more than 10,000 at First Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, the largest congregation in America, the first “megachurch.” Norris controlled a radio station, a tabloid newspaper and a valuable tract of land in downtown Fort Worth. Constantly at odds with the oil boomtown’s civic leaders, he aggressively...
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The Shooting Salvationist: J. Frank Norris and the Murder Trial that Captivated America

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The Shooting Salvationist chronicles what may be the most famous story you have never heard. In the 1920’s, the Reverend J. Frank Norris railed against vice and conspiracies he saw everywhere to a congregation of more than 10,000 at First Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, the largest congregation in America, the first “megachurch.” Norris controlled a radio station, a tabloid newspaper and a valuable tract of land in downtown Fort Worth. Constantly at odds with the oil boomtown’s civic leaders, he aggressively defended his activism, observing, “John the Baptist was into politics.”
Following the death of William Jennings Bryan, Norris was a national figure poised to become the leading fundamentalist in America. This changed, however, in a moment of violence one sweltering Saturday in July when he shot and killed an unarmed man in his church office. Norris was indicted for murder and, if convicted, would be executed in the state of Texas’ electric chair.
At a time when newspaper wire services and national retailers were unifying American popular culture as never before, Norris’ murder trial was front page news from coast to coast.  Set during the Jazz Age, when Prohibition was the law of the land, The Shooting Salvationist leads to a courtroom drama pitting some of the most powerful lawyers of the era against each other with the life of a wildly popular, and equally loathed, religious leader hanging in the balance.

From the Hardcover edition.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A leading fundamentalist figure in America in the 1920s, J. Frank Norris preached to an audience of nearly 6,000 in his First Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Tex. But his evangelical empire began to crumble when he shot a man and was tried for murder, a saga that minister and broadcaster Stokes unevenly cobbles together with a patchy history of the fundamentalist movement in the early 20th century. Positioning himself as the heir apparent to populist politician William Jennings Bryan, Norris favored showmanship and aggressively championed his causes, from alleging a Catholic conspiracy to a county wide ban on liquor. He was soon one of the most visible—and polarizing—public figures in Fort Worth and had no qualms about butting heads with city officials. He became even more infamous on July 17, 1926, when he shot D.E. Chipps three times in his church office. The ensuing murder trial—Norris claimed self-defense (though unarmed, Chipps had threatened to kill Norris)—became a media circus, with Norris's eventual acquittal. But Stokes leaves the roots and consequences of religious zealotry as well as the questions posed by the intersection of law and religion largely unexplored. 16 pages of illus. (July)
From the Publisher
A National True Crime Bestseller

"At a moment ripe for a new kind of media-savvy preacher, in a place where parsons wielded guns as confidently as they toted their Bibles, radio minister and mega-church pastor J. Frank Norris emerged as the archetype of his day. In his riveting tale of Norris’s 1927 trial for murder, David Stokes explains just how it is that this “Texas Tornado” became such a star…and lightening rod for controversy. Through rich and compelling narrative, a sharp eye for the quirky as well as the profound, rigorous research, and a commanding sense of the big picture, Stokes offers his reader a rare, exhilarating look at this notorious individual. In the process, he opens up fresh ways of understanding the local culture that vaulted Norris and his Texas-style fundamentalism onto a national stage."  - Darren Dochuk, author of From Bible Belt to Sunbelt: Plain-folk Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Rise of Evangelical Conservatism

"This excellent book chronicles [a] court case that captivated the nation  - even if it's barely remembered today  - and makes its central player, Norris, as compelling and multilayered as any character from fiction. . . . The book is engagingly written, in an immediate, you-are-there style, and the story is as compelling and surprising as any Grisham thriller. Top of the line." - Booklist (starred review)

“Readers will enjoy this oversize tale—a snapshot of a fascinating time in American and Texas history—that reads like fiction. It will appeal to those interested in true crime, the history of fundamentalism, and the early days of Texas” – Library Journal

J. Frank Norris was the pastor of a “mega-church” before the name itself existed. He was famous, and to many he was a righteous and inspiring hero.  By others, however, he was thoroughly hated. His endless crusades frustrated both businessman and politicians in Fort Worth, TX.  Norris was also a publicity hound who was brash and abrasive.  His enemies knew that he was a formidable foe.  On July 17, 1926, Norris shot and killed an unarmed man in the church office.  David Stokes's The Shooting Salvationist offers the complete story of  the shooting, the criminal trial, and their aftermath  Eighty-five years ago, this event captured the attention of the entire nation.  Modern readers will likewise be enthralled by David Stokes's skillful presentation of this shocking crime.  The story is simply incredible, yet every word is true.  And you won't put this book down until reach the end!  — Chris Rose, Andover Bookstore

“For all the colorful characters who became part of Fort Worth’s history, surely none surpassed J. Frank Norris, the fiery fundamentalist preacher at Fort Worth’s First Baptist Church in pure outlandishness. His oratory and penchant for publicity brought thousands into his congregation and at one point, First Baptist was among the largest churches in the world, a mega church before the phrase was coined. Unfortunately, for all his oratorical skills, Norris’ horizons were limited by several criminal indictments brought on by his tendency for violence.
In this book David Stokes tells the J. Frank Norris story.
If I hadn’t grown up in Fort Worth, I would have thought someone made all this up but no one did.
It really happened.” - from the foreword by Bob Schieffer (CBS News)

“Everyone loves a good story, and David Stokes has unearthed one from history’s archives and served it up with style and verve.”  - David Pietruzsa, author of 1920: The Year of Six Presidents

“David Stokes has written a book that both entertaining and informative.” - Jim Pinkerton, Newsday Columnist and FOX News Contributor

“David Stokes combines his meticulous research with a writing style which makes you feel as though you are that fly-on-the-wall witnessing history as it unfolds.” - Bob Hamer, Author of Enemies Among Us

“Thank you for sharing this fascinating story!” - Former President George W. Bush

“Reads like a page-turning novel, but is built and based on fact and not fiction. I became more and more enthralled with each passing page.”  - O. S. Hawkins, Southern Baptist Convention

“Like J. Frank Norris himself, this book moves briskly from one controversy to another. A fascinating read about a fascinating man.” - Barry Hankins, Professor of History, Baylor University and author of Jesus and Gin—Evangelicalism, The Roaring Twenties, and Today’s Culture Wars

Library Journal
Stokes, a minister himself, tells a long-forgotten story that captivated America in the 1920s. Today's charismatic preachers have mastered the use of media; J. Frank Norris was a pioneer. Norris's First Baptist Church in downtown Fort Worth, TX, drew 5000–6000 parishioners each week to his Sunday morning and evening services. He published the weekly Searchlight newspaper and broadcast his sermons on his radio station. He traveled around the country holding revival meetings and was poised to succeed William Jennings Bryan as a national fundamentalist leader, but then he killed someone. Most of the book relays Norris's murder trial for killing a local businessman who was angry over Norris's constant verbal attacks on city leaders. The trial was such a big news story that telegrams were sent constantly from the courthouse during the proceedings. VERDICT Readers will enjoy this oversize tale—a snapshot of a fascinating time in American and Texas history—that reads like fiction. It will appeal to those interested in true crime, the history of fundamentalism, and the early days of Texas.—Karen Sandlin Silverman, Ctr. for Applied Research, Philadelphia
Kirkus Reviews

Account of a highly publicized 1926 murder in Fort Worth, Texas, and the trial of accused killer J. Frank Norris, a fiery fundamentalist preacher.

Norris, whose Fort Worth church reputedly attracted more parishioners than any other in the United States during the 1920s, preached a gospel of hatred against African-Americans, Catholics and other targets. Using a newspaper he founded and a radio station, he reached audiences in a similar manner as Jerry Falwell decades later. Regularly inserting himself into controversies about the direction of Fort Worth government and business, Norris collected enemies and friends with equal aplomb. A lumber tycoon named Dexter Elliott Chipps became one of the enemies. One day in 1926, Chipps, known for his drinking, womanizing and large physical presence, called Norris at church to announce he would be walking over for a talk. When he arrived, Chipps apparently warned Norris to withdraw certain criticisms of Fort Worth leaders. Claiming to fear for his life, Norris pulled a gun and shot the unarmed Chipps dead in the church office. The criminal trial moved from Fort Worth to Austin because of prejudicial publicity. Journalists from around the nation and world covered the trial, which centered on the question of whether Norris had killed Chipps in self-defense. The jury acquitted Norris, who then remained active in fundamentalist church circles and right-wing political circles until his death in 1952. Sharing the spotlight in the narrative are the Chipps family members, church employees and congregants loyal to their minister, Fort Worth social and political big shots and well-knownlawyers on both sides of the case.

A mostly chronological account based on thorough research but marred by repetition and a melodramatic tone.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781586421892
  • Publisher: Steerforth Press
  • Publication date: 7/12/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 307,623
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

David R. Stokes is a minister, author, broadcaster, and columnist. He and his wife Karen have three married daughters and seven grandchildren. They divide their time between homes in Northern Virginia and Florida's Treasure Coast.
Bob Schieffer grew up in Fort Worth and is the chief Washington Correspondent for CBS News. He believes Fort Worth is the best place in the whole world.

From the Hardcover edition.
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Table of Contents

Author's Note ix

Cast of Characters xi

Foreword Bob Schieffer xiii

Prologue 11

1 "The Outstanding Fundamentalist of This Country" 5

2 "Charisma and the Capacity to Connect" 13

3 "The Awful Curse That Wrecked His Father's Life" 19

4 "This Fellow Carries a Broad Axe and Not a Pearl Handle Knife" 23

5 "A Deliberate Shift to Sensationalized Sermons" 30

6 "What to Do with Norris" 39

7 "The Southwest Was Ready for the Klan" 146

8 "John the Baptist Was in to Politics" 52

9 "The Largest Protestant Church in America, a Weekly Paper and a Radio Network" 59

10 "Is the City Manager a Czar?" 66

11 "A Deep Laid Conspiracy" 71

12 "The Grand Champions of the Fort Worth Club" 79

13 "The Time Was Ripe for a Full Airing" 82

14 "When the Lid Is Taken Off" 86

15 "Mr. Meacham's Record Is Well Known" 94

16 "If You Do, I'll Kill You" 102

17 "Hello Chief, Let's Go" 109

18 "Extra, Extra, Read All About It!" 113

19 "God Works His Will in Unusual Ways" 117

20 "If You Can Keep Your Head When All About You Are Losing Theirs" 122

21 "All the Symptoms of a Paranoiac" 126

22 "The Shooting Salvationist" 135

23 "The Inevitable Tragedy That Was Forced upon the Pastor" 147

24 "The First Law of All Is the Law of Self-Preservation" 151

25 "No Ordinary Preacher of Brotherly Love" 156

26 "With Malice Aforethought" 163

27 "This War Between Heaven and Hell" 167

28 "The Rulers of the Darkness of This World" 172

29 "A Matchup Between Polar Opposites" 176

30 "Trying to Influence the Course of Justice" 180

31 "Moses Versus Wild Bill" 189

32 "There Is No Opposition to a Graveyard" 196

33 "A Plea Against Hate and Factionalism" 201

34 "A Civil Action" 207

35 "Perhaps I Should Withdraw That Remark" 214

36 "Apparent Danger" 218

37 "There Is Hate Written All Over the State's Case" 225

38 "I Have Killed Me a Man" 229

39 "I'll Come Back" 238

40 "It's a Frame Up!" 248

41 "I Will Kill You!" 253

42 "A Worn, Thumbed Man" 270

43 "Every Wit Is Whetted to Needle Sharpness" 282

44 "The Defense Calls Dr. J. Frank Norris" 287

45 "As a Man Soweth, So Shall He Reap" 301

46 "I Hold in My Hand a Verdict" 316

Epilogue 323

Acknowledgments 329

A Note on Sources 331

Index 341

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