“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)
BOOKLIST Starred Review:
"After the 1925 death of William Jennings Bryan, the hugely popular politician and anti-evolution campaigner, one man seemed poised to step into his shoes, Fort Worth fundamentalist preacher J. Frank Norris, whose fire-breathing sermons and enthusiastic championing of the “common man” had made him famous across the U.S. But in 1926, his crusade was derailed when he was charged with the murder of a man who, Norris claimed, had threatened his life. This excellent book chronicles the court case that, even if it’s barely remembered today, captivated the nation, and it makes its central player as compelling and multilayered as any character from fiction. Stokes says the book “is not merely based on a true story—it is a true story.” All dialogue comes from documented sources and is presented verbatim. All events are based on the historical record. At a time when “creative“ nonfiction is becoming ever more prevalent, it’s refreshing to see a biographical work in which what you read is what actually happened and what is said is what was actually said. Engagingly written in an immediate, you-are-there style, the book is as compelling and surprising as any Grisham thriller. Top of the line."
- David Pitt
"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
“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, 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