Roy Falls at Norris' gravesite

Roy Falls at Norris' gravesite

Books for Sale

Books for Sale

Friday, September 10, 2010


By using a broad brush approach, critics can indict an opponent by the stroke of a pen, the truth be damned. These are the tactics of the Norris critics who attempt to besmirch his legacy by alleging a Klan connection.

From the beginning of his ministry, Norris displayed passionate feelings about inordinate evils long before the emergence of the second rise of the Klan in the early 1920’s. The prohibition era was ushered in by a wave of indignant Protestants dead set on eliminating the liquor curse. Research reveals the power with which the anti liquor elements of the Klan infiltrated countless Protestant churches. Using the broad brush tactics, every Protestant congregation were Klan sympathizers because of their support of prohibition. Such was the extent of J. Frank Norris’ connection with the Klan. Time Magazine quotes J. Frank Norris thus; “I HAVE NO BRIEF WITH THE KLAN”. No hard evidence exists that Norris was ever in league with the Klan. One noted and respected governor of Texas, Pat M. Neff, later appointed President of Baylor University was supported by the Klan, (UNT Digital Library). Does anyone equate Pat Neff with the Klan? Thanks to the candid comment in the Dallas News (year 2007) Barry Hankins said of Norris:


The word “probably” is an unintended admission that linking J. Frank Norris with the Klan will not stand the test of real research.

Having observed the man up close, I can conclude the passion of his message was directed towards issues, not intended against persons or groups. He hated the devastating effects of liquor, but he loved the victim. He opposed the priestly concept of infallibility, but could align himself with Catholics with crucial issues. He spoke often of his admiration for stalwarts in all denominations, but resented over-lording tactics of ambitious leaders. The anti-Catholic bias did not begin with the Klan. Thomas Jefferson is quoted in Wikipedia as equating the priest-hood as hostile to liberty. On a personal note, I can testify that J. Frank Norris never unfairly attacked the Catholic faith, at least he never indoctrinated me with such folly. As a World War II Veteran of the South Pacific and Europe, I can reveal nothing but pleasant experiences I had with my fellow comrades of all faiths. I served with Catholic buddies, slept in the same hut, fraternized on a daily basis, but very rarely in unfriendly conversations. Most Catholic lay persons are genuine in their devotion to sacred principles. Open and frank dialogue is in keeping with the spirit of ecumenism. This aspect of ecumenism is commendable and represents the same philosophy which J. Frank Norris embraced. No subject is sacrosanct.

Some elements of the Klan in the 1920’s were vocal in anti-Semitic rhetoric. Anti-Semitic attitudes perpetrated the myth that the Jews crucified Christ. Elements of the Christian world have echoed the “Christ killer” myth, not taking into account the multitudes of Jews were the pioneer followers of Christ. Most all of Christendom has fallen into a fallacious trap. J. Frank Norris split ranks with a number of his fundamentalist brethren over this issue. Early in his ministry, he was passionate about the Jewish right to their inherited land. To equate Norris in league with the Klan would certainly be a stretch of the imagination.

The Klan in Texas emerged in prominence in the early 1920s, so powerful in fact, that one-half of the Texas Legislature were in the grip of Klansmen. This was true in vast regions of the country, brought on by the increase of foreign immigrants, most of whom were Roman Catholics. The heart of the Catholic issue centered around the authoritarianism of the Catholic Church. While Norris was in the center of the issue, he was no more different than the vast majority of Protestants, even though he was more vocal.

As an afterthought, the illegal immigration is a prominent issue facing us today. Good people are on both sides of the issue. Honesty insists on fairness and freedom to discuss the issue openly, just like it was in 1920.