The First Radio Preacher Part 2
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Tue May 26, 2009 at 10:11:08 AM EST
     Author Barry Hankins said that J. Frank Norris often had dealings with Gerald Winrod.  Winrod was the "Jawhawk Nazi" who ran for senator from Kansas.  Norris was also special friends with Gerald Smith, the notorious anti-Semite.  Norris once had Smith into his church to preach a series of revival meetings.  Smith's topics he preached on included a Communist plot to deceive Negroes and why Elliot Roosevelt is closer to Stalin than any other American.  One message dealt with a special deal insiders had going to pick Stalin as the next President of the United States.  Norris would part with this branch of the religious right over the issue of Jews.  Norris' view of end of times led him to embrace modern Israel.
     Norris once accused Southern Baptist President Louie Newton of being tainted by Communism.  J. Frank wrote the House on Un-American Activities volunteering to appear to expose the Southern Baptist conspiracy before the committee.  Norris aligned himself with the anti-labor movement and befriended Henry Ford.  Other historical religious right figures like Carl McIntire and Father Coughlin were freinds with Norris. Norris praised Joe McCarthy.
     The radio preacher once commented, "The American people , the real white foks, the Protestant population, rose up and put the Catholic machine out of business, and a Roman Catholic is not even allowed to clean spittoons in the court house of city hall in
Birmingham."  Norris changed his mind about some Catholics later on. It is interesting that he would find kinship with Cathoics like Father Coughlin and would denoucne people like George Truett.  Truett was pastor of First Baptist in Dallas.  Norris liked Coughlin's views on Roosevelt and the New Deal.  (Note that Coughlin blamed the depression and World War II on Jews.)
     Gerald smith claims that J. Frank often reinvented himself.  He could curse the Pope and then praise the Pope.  He praises Jews and curses Jews. He is for Roosevelt and then against Roosevelt.  Smith said Norris would thus do anything to keep himself in the public eye.
     Of Democrats, Norris said, "What a conglomeration, Tammy Hall, Roman Catholicism, bootleggers, carpet bag politicians and Negroes.  What will white people of Texas do?"  He believed the Catholic church stood for racial equality with Negroes.  Norris was opposed to sending Negroes to Congress and allowing Negroes to hold political office.4
     What Norris said about himself in his autobiography makes Hankins remarks pale by comparision. His friends admit in the book that Norris enjoyed a fight.  J. Frank  says the people at First Baptist Church who originally were  there made him a mean person. He thus had to come to a new understanding of the ministry.  Norris believed that everyone who lifted their hand against him in the church failed to prosper.  He said of the state's Baptist General Convention of Texas that the organization was a denomination of Hamans.
     Often in the book Norris and others who stood behind the pulpit, told folks publicly to go to hell.  Norris said he would not let a few half dressed women raise hell in the church and tell him what to do. He preached a sermon to the Texas Legislature and ended it by telling Joseph Stalin to go to hell.  One of the laymen in the church gave his testimony about what Norris meant to him.  The man was encouraged to leave the controversial church by his boss.  The man tells the congregation that he told his boss to go to hell.  The church applauds.
     The pastor believed Baptist organizations in his day martyred Batpist preachers. He thought denominations ought to be smashed to smithereens because they were unscriptural.  Norris often accused denominations of being centers for Communist movements. J. Frank said of modernist preachers that they were asses.  He said of these, "Lick-the-skillet-two-by-four aping asinine preachers, who want to be in the priest's office so they can have a piece of the bread, and play kite tail to the Communists."  Of the World Baptist  Alliance, Norris said, "the World Baptist Alliance is the biggest cuckoo frame-up ever known to Baptists."
     The Texan said he was on a crusade and needed to be given the liberty to speak out.  He would excuse his language saying God can't use sissies and cowards.  One woman lamented his attitude. He replied, "Honey, you couldn't know the Christian spirit any more than a bull would know Shakespeare."  The church burst into laughter at the comment.
     The preacher once announced to the church to come that Sunday night and hear him expose the ten biggest devils in Fort Worth. He named names and some were present at the discourse. Norris listed the acquaintances and occupations of who he considered the worst ten sinners in the city.5
      One day a friend of  the Mayor of Fort Worth came to see Norris about berating his buddy.    The man confronts Norris and Norris pulled a gun and killed the man. J. Fank Norris was acquitted on the charges. He was tried twice for torch jobs and once for murder.
     It is a well known fact that Norris would send a weekly condemning telegram to George Truett in Dallas. The message was sent to arrive just before Truett was to enter the pulpit for his Sunday morning sermon.  Norris' telegram was so cruel and vindictive deacons at First Dallas intercepted the messages before they could get to their pastor.
     The Klan in Texas was fond of Norris, which is no surprise, considering his positions. When Norris was indicted in the shooting of the visitor in his office, the Texas Klan publicy said they were ready to rally to his aid.  He once commented that all professors in the state universities are denied the right to challenge the fundamentals of the Christian faith.6
     Hankins claims Norris' influence is stamped on the ministry of Jerry Falwell.  The preacher's friendship with the early religious right in the nation is interesting. It is noteworthy how Norris would cooperate with Catholics and Disciples preachers but  not with traditional Baptists.  His leadership provides a clue to understanding modern fundamentalism which often crosses over denominational and religious lines but will not cross over political ones.  J. Frank certainly was God's rascal.

Endnotes: J. Frank Norris

  1.  Kemp, Roy, J. FRANK NORRIS,  pgs. 18, 26.
  2.  Morris, Gwin, "No  Love Lost", TEXAS BAPTIST HISTORY, Volume XXI XXIII, 2001-2003 pgs. 74-81.
  3.  Hankins, Barry, GOD'S RASCAL, Univ. Press of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, 1996, pgs. 9,11,15,49,52,60,63,81,100,105,109,1125,134,135,147,148, 152,154,158,163,165.
  4.  Norris, J. Frank, INSIDE HISTORY OF THE FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH FORT WORTH AND TEMPLE BAPTIST CHURCH DETROIT, Pgs. 12-18, 56,58,72,80,82,93,112,117,120,158.
  5.  William Pitts, Ed., TEXAS BAPTIST HISTORY Vol. VII, 1987, pg. 6.

"Elliot" Roosevelt? Shouldn't that be "Franklin Delano" Roosevelt?

"Jayhawk", not "Jawhawk" (clearly the author is not from Kansas)

This is an interesting article, and I only nitpick because some people tend to stop reading when they encounter obvious errors such as the Roosevelt one.

by NancyP on Fri May 29, 2009 at 04:14:38 AM EST

Right Nancy, it should be Jayhawk.  The other one quote on the name is a direct quote from my source, Dr. Hankins.  (He is a much better editor than I am so I went with it.)

by wilkyjr on Fri May 29, 2009 at 09:21:30 AM EST

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