Roy Falls at Norris' gravesite

Roy Falls at Norris' gravesite

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Sunday, August 29, 2010


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

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