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The Shooting Salvationist: J. Frank Norris and the Murder Trial that Captivated America
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The Shooting Salvationist: J. Frank Norris and the Murder Trial that Captivated America

3.54  ·  Rating Details ·  304 Ratings  ·  70 Reviews
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 t ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published July 12th 2011 by Steerforth (first published April 20th 2010)
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Aug 09, 2011 Kurt rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people obsessed with Texas history
Recommended to Kurt by: Amazon Vine
The story of J. Frank Norris is a compelling one, and one that is certainly relevant in contemporary United States society. A controversial fundamentalist preacher with ties to both Baylor University and the Ku Klux Klan (as a disgruntled Baylor alum, I’m offended by both associations) gains widespread notoriety as a leader of a massive church who is known more for his political involvement than for his Bible teaching. He expands his influence through mass media and seems to invite controversy f ...more
Bob Hayton
Jun 06, 2011 Bob Hayton rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
J. Frank Norris may be the most influential fundamentalist leader that almost no one has heard about. In his day, he was a shoe-in to lead the fundamentalist movement after the passing of the great William Jennings Bryan of Scopes Trial fame. Norris was the fiery, fundamentalist pastor of Fort Worth’s largest church. He boasted the largest Sunday School in the world and had his own newspaper and radio station. His flamboyant preaching style and knack for publicity stunts and marketing, were bein ...more
May 16, 2012 Micki rated it it was amazing
loved the book. i grew up in that church - my mother grew up in that church as well - during the time of J.Frank Norris. My grandma worked in the church office - so it was awesome to read of many of the stories and incidents that occurred while my mother and aunt were growing up and used to talk about. the book was written by someone who didn't really care too much for the pastor, but it very well written. very rich in fort worth history.
Jan 26, 2017 Evelyn rated it really liked it
Sad, but true, sometimes the world sees and hears only what it wants to.
Jean Poulos
Apr 22, 2014 Jean Poulos rated it really liked it
The book opens with the ending of the Scopes trial and the sudden death of William Jennings Bryan. Apparently the Fundamentalist Christian movement was at its peak in the 1920s. J. Frank Norris was a Baptist pastor and a social activist fighting to “clean up” Fort Worth had helped obtain the services of Bryan to prosecute Scopes. The First Baptists Church of Fort Worth had a huge membership the church could hold 5000 people and was full for every service. Norris also published a Church Fundament ...more
Tim Chavel
Apr 08, 2014 Tim Chavel rated it really liked it
My wife bought me this book for Valentine's Day. The cover of my book says, "ADVANCE READING COPY NOT FOR SALE," so I might have an unedited copy.

I never knew that J. Frank Norris killed a man until I heard about this book about a year or so ago. J. Frank Norris was a famous pastor in the 1920's -1950's. He had a church in Fort Worth, TX, that had a membership of several thousand people. This was a fasinating read for me. The author, David R. Stokes, is a pastor and an author. He wrote the book
Rebekah Schrepfer
Aug 01, 2013 Rebekah Schrepfer rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The subtitle of the book is “The Pastor of America's First Megachurch and the Texas Murder Trial of the Decade in the 1920s.” This is a research project by David Stokes about J. Frank Norris and his acquittal for the killing of D.E. Chipps on the grounds of self-defense. Although the book was an interesting read, I couldn't help but feel that I was getting a one-sided view of the facts. Most of the research was taken from newspapers and books about the city of Fort Worth and it's culture and cur ...more
Christy Lockstein
Jun 08, 2010 Christy Lockstein rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Apparent Danger by David Stokes is a true crime look at the 1920s murder trial of America's first megachurch pastor. J. Frank Norris was a controversial figure in Fort Worth, Texas. The head preacher of First Baptist Church was well known for his courting of trouble and links with the Ku Klux Klan. After fighting with city leaders for more than fifteen years, he shot and killed D.E. Chipps, a lumberman, in his office saying that it was self-defense. His trial created national interest and was fi ...more
Greg Wilson
Jul 28, 2010 Greg Wilson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Growing up as an independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) and graduating from an IFB college, I was taught that Dr. J. Frank Norris was a hero. He was one of the founding fathers of (Baptist) fundamentalism. He not only was the pastor of one mega church but two mega churches at the same time! This was before (1930's and 1940's) there were mega churches or "virtual" campuses. In the late 1940's the First Baptist Church of Fort Worth Texas and the Temple Baptist Church of Detroit Michigan had a combi ...more
Nov 16, 2013 Shaune rated it really liked it
I listened to the audio-book so I can't call it a page-turner:), but it had me riveted.
The author was meticulous in his research but his re-creation of the story using the techniques of a novelist worked really well. You feel like you were there. The main man, Norris, for me is not very likeable but the author explained the events of his child-hood that shaped him. The author gives lots of context explaining about Texas politics in the 20s including the ominous role of the Klu Klux Klan, so that
Nov 06, 2013 Raymond rated it really liked it
I have been fascinated with John Franklyn Norris since I learned of his victory against Bugsy Siegel and his Top O' Hill Terrace in Arlington, Texas! I hoped to learn something about Harry Sinclair whose Sinclair Oil Headquarters were in Fort Worth.
I have been to Billy Sunday territory in Warsaw / Winona Lake, Indiana but had not known of Norris until our move to North Texas.
This was a really eye-opening introduction to many well known characters of that era here
J. Frank Norris was an enigma. He is so revered in some fundamentalist circles that one of the nation's leading Libertarian speakers and writers, Laurence Vance, named his own son after him. It isn't possible to understand any historical figure by only reading books by people who don't like him, which Stokes clearly does not. It might be a reasonable thing to do to read a book by a supporter just to try to get a balanced picture in my mind. This is an okay book but the bias is so obvious it made ...more
Jul 24, 2012 Lori rated it liked it
Really is fascinating book. Would have rated higher but I felt like at one point I was slogging thru the actual trial due to so much of the court transcripts being included. It would no doubt be a great read for anyone from that area interested in the History of Texas, Fort Worth, early Evangelists etc. I listened to version.
Jeri Massi
Apr 26, 2014 Jeri Massi rated it it was amazing
Fundamentalists whitewash the legacy of J Frank Norris. This historical narrative of one chapter in his tumultuous life will remind many of the temper and ego of Jack Hyles. It is also a masterful work of "setting the record straight" about a man who was a religious huckster and a crafty pulpiteer.
Seth Alcorn
Oct 05, 2012 Seth Alcorn rated it really liked it
Very informative. Very helpful for those interested in fundamentalism in the early 20th century. Overall good read.
David Stokes
Jul 04, 2013 David Stokes rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
Well, I loved WRITING it ;) :)
Joan Adamak
Mar 24, 2013 Joan Adamak rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
By David Stokes

Insight into the Fundamentalist Movement in 1920

This non-fiction story about an extremely powerful, charismatic pastor, Frank J. Norris during the early twenties was written by a minister who was so interested in Rev. Norris’ life and the indictment against him for the murder of D. E. Chipps that he collected six thousand pieces of information, from which he wrote this book and prior to this, wrote another one in 2007 under a different title. Frank J. came from ext
Thus far I found the overwhelming amount of detail paid to trivial information to be rather monotonous. Now that the murder has occurred, it has gotten more interesting as I have read hundreds True Crime books and this began as quite a disappointment. I am doing this book as a book reviewer for no charge as I am trying to gain experience for a paying book review job. I have been an avid reader for 35 years or more and read book reviews (for example Publisher's Weekly and The New York Times book ...more
F.C. Etier
Apr 25, 2010 F.C. Etier rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: religious and courtroom fans
"He needed killing." was, as the legend goes, a legal and effective defense in the Deep South for shooting a man.

The "hip pocket move" and the doctrine of "apparent danger", taken together, were the comparable defense in the Wild West Days of Fort Worth, Texas. Fort Worth, in the roaring twenties, was still considered in many ways, to be enjoying the "wild west" ways of days gone by. It was certainly true of their legal system. To that synergistic mix, add Fort Worth's eleventh commandment, "Tho
H.b. Charles
Feb 16, 2017 H.b. Charles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I hard someone mention J. Frank Norris in passing. I looked him up and discovered this book. Very prococative read. A preacher given to sentationalism. A shrewd church growth strategists. A proflic writer and paper editor. A major player in early Fundamentalism. When you add the possibility of Norris being "a cold-blooded murderer," it makes the story that much more compelling. Stokes has well written the story of this J. Frank Norris, the First Baptist CHurch of Fort Worth, and the trial of the ...more
Jun 02, 2010 Kaylea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I love history and am always intrigued by true crime stories. When the chance to review this book came about, I jumped at it, because it combines history, crime and is set in the local church.

The thought that a pastor shot someone - in his own office - totally blew me away. My friends in Texas joke that they do things "big" in Texas, so why wouldn't the first "mega" church be set in Texas.

At 365 pages, Stokes' book is filled with a variety of details, facts and other things related to Norris' ca
Hank Pharis
Oct 22, 2015 Hank Pharis rated it liked it
What an intriguing story. J. Frank Norris was simultaneously the Pastor of First Baptist in Fort Worth, TX and Temple Baptist in Detroit. FBCFW was America's first megachurch. People loved or hated Norris and most biographies of him today either love him or hate him. This is one of the few to aim for some kind of middle ground. The author is a conservative Baptist pastor who nevertheless honestly identifies Norris' faults. (Some certainly will be offended and complain that Stokes is too critical ...more
Oct 08, 2013 Rachel rated it really liked it
Shelves: surprising-likes
This was a book that I had picked up some years ago for free at BEA. I did not have high hopes going in to it as I am not a big non-fiction fan nor do I find reading about trials entertaining.

But I was pleasantly surprised by this account. Not only had I never heard of this murder trial (so it was a little like fiction because I didn't know the outcome!) but I never even heard the name J. Frank Norris before. I found his character to be fascinating as both a public speaker and master manipulator
Aug 09, 2010 Wyndy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had never heard of this pastor so was very interested in how a man of God could confess to a murder and then be acquitted. The fact that the man was also one of the first Baptist Fundamentalist ministers to have a mega-church was also intriguing. The author has presented the pastor with all his good and bad points along with the reactions of the town members of Fort Worth during the 1920's. Mr. Stokes'obvious grasp of the way the rough and tumble State approached law and justice in those days ...more
Travis Gilbert
Dec 13, 2014 Travis Gilbert rated it it was amazing
I have long been intrigued by the legend of J. Frank Norris, the first mega-church pastor in American history. David Stokes has thoroughly researched and, has compellingly written about the most sensational time in a life of sensational moments.

The author is definitely biased against Norris, his convictions, and his methods. He views Norris more as a manipulative charlatan than a sincere preacher who was dedicated to righteousness regardless of the cost.

Of course, all of the controversy that No
Jul 08, 2011 Sarah rated it liked it
Shelves: arc, own, nonfiction
This tells the true story of J. Frank Norris, preacher at the country's first "megachurch" in Ft. Worth, TX. One night, in his church office, he shot and killed an unarmed man. Stokes gives us the events that lead to the encounter, as well as the unfolding of Norris' trial. This is a really interesting topic, and I was especially interested to read about the history of Fort Worth and the surrounding area since I just moved here. But for some reason, this was a really slow read for me. I'm not su ...more
Phoenix Reads
Jul 23, 2013 Phoenix Reads rated it it was amazing
Shelves: legal-thrillers
I put this on my shelf with legal thrillers, but it's not a novel. Hard to believe there ever was such a character John Franklyn "J. Frank" Noris. He was a fiery, flamboyant fundamentalist paster in the Roaring Twenties, and had a penchant for controversy and sansationalistm that broght him fame and fortune, not to mention several criminal indictments.

His was the first of America's megachurches. In spite of his ambitions, he would never be aqccepted in the mqainstream of religious leaders in Am
May 01, 2013 Joshua rated it really liked it
A very interesting look into the life of J. Frank Norris. Growing up in a baptist church I had heard several times about "the preacher who pulled a gun out in his office and shot a man." Until now I had never really known the whole story. It is evident that Stokes intends to vilify Norris. Though I am sure J. Frank Norris and I would have cared little for one another if our two ministries were contemporaries, there seems to be more to this man than what we see represented in Stokes work. For ano ...more
Mar 08, 2012 Stephanie rated it it was amazing
Entertaining as all get out. This book records an unjustly forgotten case of the intersection of politics, religion, mass communication and Texas culture. I love reading about the 1920's to begin with, but this is a story which manages to keep the different players straight while this drama of egos and power plays out.

You get a good sense of the period and the place, the story moves quickly and you almost wish it didn't, because it is all so fascinating. The Wild West lives on in a wild cannon p
L. Lee Whitlock
Dec 22, 2015 L. Lee Whitlock rated it really liked it
This is an excellent book and history lesson. I have read some other books that occur during this period, and it certainly adds to the period. I liked how Stokes included the court transcripts into the narrative and created a real sense of drama into the last pages. I wish I had not known the outcome of the trial ahead of time, because his presentation of the "evidence" from both points of view kept me guessing. His character development is excellent. I came to know these minor figures in U.S. h ...more
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Though creating compelling copy has always been a part of his work as a minister and broadcaster, it wasn’t until David R. Stokes moved into his fifties that he got serious about writing books. Since then, he has written several highly regarded works of fiction and nonfiction, as well as three screenplays.

His first book, THE SHOOTING SALVATIONIST: J. Frank Norris and the Murder Trial that Captiva
More about David R. Stokes...

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“Early on, Simmons realized that the religious movement of fundamentalism provided a large pool of potential Klan members. He capitalized on the fact that his group and the fundamentalists “shared several important characteristics: an intolerance for ways of life different from their own, a frustration with post-war change, and a passionate commitment to restoring things as they used to be.” 0 likes
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