The Shooting Salvationist: J. Frank Norris and the Murder Trial that Captivated Americaby David R. Stokes
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.
"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
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.
- Steerforth Press
- Publication date:
- Sold by:
- Penguin Random House Publisher Services
- NOOK Book
- File size:
- 2 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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