Roy Falls at Norris' gravesite

Roy Falls at Norris' gravesite

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Friday, September 2, 2011

Scenes from the "Good Old Days"

These scenes show thousands witnessing a baptismal service, under J. Frank Norris. There were people even atop the hills, which this video is unable to capture. Wish this were commonplace today.

This picture is partial view of a baptismal service in the basin of the San Pedro River in San Antonio, Texas in the year of 1925, and published by the Texas Monthly Press. The year of 1925 was the middle point of the prohibition era between 1920 and 1933.

I want you to review this photo and permit me the privilege of pointing out what I consider few poignant observations. First of all, it depicts in a summary fashion the legacy of J. Frank Norris and the accounts of this man’s life which have often been distorted and exaggerated myths have been perpetuated, making it difficult for this generation to know the truth. Myths make for a good fairy tale, but half truths are as bad as an outright lie. Distorted accounts have long tried to associate J. Frank Norris as being “cozy” with the KKK. In this photo, I do not see any evidence of a Klan presence . Ironically, Norris’ erstwhile Baptist critics have almost ceased in reporting this “so-called” dark episode, knowing full well that Klan activity in that time period had infiltrated 90% of the Protestant churches, including main-line Southern Baptist Churches. Having researched the issue thoroughly, any friendship Norris may have cultivated with the Klan was related to the enforcement of the prohibition laws and the attempt to stamp out the cruse of liquor. Mr. Barry Hankins, a Baylor University professor is an honorable man in my opinion, who said Norris was no more racist than others of this era.

In this photo, I see a serene crowd of onlookers with rapt attention with no evidence of drunkenness. When old timers speak of the “good old days”, it is scenes like this which you could wish were more common place today. Sad to say, here is a scene you will not find duplicated in this day of moral decline and turmoil. Neither do I see evidence of a gun-toting parson, the albatross label Norris labored under for years after a tragic event in which he was forced to defend himself. And for the record, repeated references that Norris killed an “unarmed” man is NOT a part of the record proven in court.

Little by little, I am happy to say that the real story of J. Frank Norris is beginning to surface. The Texas Monthly recently published (August 2011) a review of Mr. Stokes’ book. Mr. Don Graham, in his review of the book points out that depicting Norris as having a cultist personality is not in keeping with the revival spirit of that era which brought great energy and consolation to thousands.

(I was 5 years of age at that time period (1925).
I remain an independent, fundamental Baptist
to this day and I am still sane.)

Mr. Graham concludes, “I wish Mr. Stokes had been able to get across some of that fervor.”

I hope I have given an accurate account of this review.
I see in this photo a hidden message which ranks at the top of all else which might be said. A baptismal event carries with it a whole host of symbolical meanings. Baptism represents the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord. It signals the dying of one’s self to the world and becoming alive in Christ (born again). Baptism is the first act of obedience and precedes the aligning of one’s self to a New Testament Church.

A new Testament Baptist Church is like an oasis in the desert. That’s why Christ referred to the church as His “called out assembly.” A true church is a unique entity. “We are in the world but not of the world”. Herein lies the root of most theological discussions. The J. Frank Norris Historical Society website is dedicated to promoting good sound doctrine and the promoting of Norris’ ministry is co-incidental with that commitment. If I miss a beat here and there, just bear with me, I assure you, my heart is in the right place.

Roy Falls

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