Roy Falls at Norris' gravesite

Roy Falls at Norris' gravesite

Books for Sale

Books for Sale

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Reprinted below is the editorial eulogy, published by The Fort Worth Star-Telegram on August 21, 1952.

"The newer generation may not fully recognize, in the death of Rev. J. Frank Norris, the passing of an unusual personality and the close of a life in which strife and storm and the exercise of dynamic leadership played dominant chords.  Although a clergyman, Dr. Norris could perhaps have achieved prominence in almost any field of human endeavor.  He possessed ambition, and brillance and the ability to gather others to his will."

"After 74 years, almost half a century of which was spent in the ministry, he had come into semi-retirement and had surrendered the pastorate of two tremendously large churches, the First Baptist here and the Temple Baptist Church in Detroit, and the presidency of the Bible Baptist Seminary, which he founded.  But his intimate association with the activities of his denomination had not ceased.  He reassumed the pastorate here only a few months ago, and death overtook him as he participated in a youth encampment near Jacksonville, Fla.  His promotion of the Fundamentalist Fellowship spread it across the nation and into foreign countries.  He preached internationally, and commanded throngs wherever he spoke."

"The force of his personality was enormous.  The controversies surrounding him were frequent and noisy.  He had the faculty of binding his friends and followers to him with hoops of steel, and the kindred quality of making implacable opponents, whom he always nettled and sometimes frustrated.  But deep in his character, whatever the controversies, was the spirit of the builder.  He built in beliefs, in numbers, and in stone.  These monuments remain."

"Dr. Norris possessed great talent, however critical his opponents may have been of its use.  His intellect was quick, and razor-sharp.  He could sway people in a mastery of mass psychology.  He had strength, and courage, and daring.  He was perhaps a man out of his era, an anachronism in a time which never completely understood the hard temper and evangelistic fervor of his character, but could not escape being facinated by it."

Reprinted by permission of Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Amon G. Carter, Sr., Founder and Publisher.

The originator of this web-site was an employee of Mr. Amon Carter Sr.  I knew him to be an honorable and gracious man, greatly admired by his employees.  I assisted him on many occassions carrying a wheel-chair bound employee up the front steps of the Star Telegram.


The legacy of J. Frank Norris has an enduring factor which is best understood if looked at from the standpoint of his deep-seated beliefs.  He is not admired as a saintly hero, as his critics allege, but rather for the beliefs he embraced and propounded.  While I was not privy to the inner circles, my first encounter with his ministry began in 1928.  My family, through the insistence of my mother, visited the Norris revivals throughout north Texas.  Incidentally, these were the compatible years in which Dr. John R. Rice was an integral partner.  As an aside, I was an eye witness observer in 1936 of the Norris-Rice controversy.

As an active member of the First Baptist Church, from 1936 to 1952, I heard messages interlaced with bed-rock truths that have resonated in my mind all these years.  And now at age ninety, these truths have grown to be more precious than at the beginning.  Hopefully, I wish to write and speak, with total objectivity.  Regrettably, much of the website chatter on the Norris legacy is emotionally charged, much of which will not stand the test of real research.

The Norris legacy is fundamentally no different from ordinary people who live out an expected life span.  Every person's past is a mixed assortment of questionable behavior patterns, but because of anonymity, the average person is not scrutinized as in the case of notable public figures.

In dealing with multitudes of diverse personalities, it is not surprising that bitter conflicts emerge with inevitable regularity.  Such was the legacy of J. Frank Norris.  His instinctive ability to align himself with bed-rock principles is the true measure of a principled person.  The embellishment of faulty scruples fail the acid test.  I must add that Lillian Gaddy Norris was the equalizing factor throughout a remarkable courtship.  This Godly woman knew him as no other person could.  Judge him from her standpoint and you will get a greater appreciation for his contribution to the Christian cause.

He is recognized as the father of fundamentalism in the south, so stated by his critics, to which we acquiesce.  Core beliefs of fundamentalism, rightfully understood, is embraced by multitudes and has survived the test of time.

Much of what is written about J. Frank Norris by modern authors is pure fiction and thus the ability of critics to embellish the facts becomes the format for the forming of uninformed opinions.  When facts are met head-on, the legacy of J. Frank Norris takes on a positive image.

Roy Falls

The Chipps Murder Trial

The prime example of poor research is the recent attempts to rehash the killing of D. E. Chipps in 1926.  The redundancy of the episode rings loud with a pure lack of knowledge of both facts and law.  Unsubstantiated statements are picked up by one critic and passed on with abandon.  Calling Norris "a killer of an unarmed man" was not the finding of the 12 man jury.  Acquittal was the verdict.

Acquittal means that the accused defendant has a constitutional right against double jeopardy.  If the prosecutors had hopes of finding some appealable error in 1927, they would have pursued it legally.  Neither do the latter day pundits have grounds for a would be appeal.  So they dredge up an emotional appeal.  And add extraneous factors as well as denigrating reputable people, long deceased and unable to respond.  If the Norris acquittal was a miscarriage of justice, then the critics recourse of blame is upon the state, not some nebulous unknown element, like "nagging at a gnat".  To call "Norris" a "killer" would likely be grounds for libelous slander if he were still living.  But, unfortunately, utterances of emotional irrelevancies are permissible in a free society.

Roy Falls

Saturday, August 28, 2010


The newer generation cannot fully appreciate the difference between traditional hymnology and the modern day contemporary music heard in most churches.  The Norris legacy cannot be complete without an understanding of the difference between the two.

The spiritual atmosphere of by-gone years was greatly enhanced by a different kind of music from what is heard in this modern era.  My father's account of cherished memories has led me to pursue an appreciation of classical hymnology.  Having studied under Ms. Ozella Oliver Jeffus, who was a contemporary of Brooks Morris, has provided a foundation of my musical appreciation. 

Brooks Morris founded the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra in 1925, and as a loyal devotee of the First Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, Dr. Norris appointed him as the music director of his church ....there could not have been a more perfect association.  As an added bit of information, Lela Rogers (mother of actress Ginger Rogers who danced with Fred Astaire) was appointed as Executive Director of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra in 1929. 

My father, Roy E. Falls, used to tell me stories about how my family and Mr. Morris would almost always go (after church was dismissed) to the old "Toddle House" for hamburgers.  This little tidbit no one has ever before known about, until now......just me and my family....but, there's more to the story.  Both my father and mother were so captivated by the music (lead by Brooks Morris) in the First Baptist Church of Fort Worth, Tx......they were determined to give me the finest classical music lessons.  As a child, music was "my life".  Many years were spent with Ms. Jeffus and at home sitting down at the family piano and singing, along with dad and mom, all our favorite hymns we knew and loved.  Unbeknownst' to me, my parents had instilled in me a most precious gift for life....a true appreciation for "real" that I played and still play on my piano.......and that music came with a huge dividend....100's of hymn verses and choruses that I had memorized all throughout those early a result of playing every Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night in church.  And not least will I forget lugging our old pump organ which I played under the tents in those grassy fields during those blazing hot summer months.  And today, that is the music I love...early hymns, played and sung like those in the old First Baptist Church of Fort Worth.  That certain form or style I have never forgotten or veered from.

My father and I are in the process of putting together our first CD....old hymns that some of you may remember from way "back when".  The hymns we select are not only beautiful music, but have a beautiful message and a story to tell....and it appears to me, maybe as a coincidence, the older the hymn the more, as you might imagine, through the years I have searched for unusual, pretty hymns that I believe need to be brought back and made new again...and of course, sung and played as they once were.  The music may bring you "back in time".....if not, it will captivate your heart.  Our best hope is that when you listen, you will be able to imagine it coming over your radio from "long ago"....from the First Baptist Church of Fort Worth, Tx., under the direction of Brooks Morris.

Great hymns of the faith always accompany great revivals.  But contemporary (bourbon street music) can never supplant hymns of the likes of Fanny Crosby. 

Thank you,

Gail Hawkins