Saturday, January 18, 2014
Thanks to Pastor Rick Martin for this marvelous writeup of J. Frank Norris
J. Frank Norris
The life of Dr. J. Frank Norris provides a fascinating study of revival for fundamental independent Baptists today. All the men we've studied so far are missionaries and evangelists but J.F. Norris' life is a story of revival in a local church. Actually, at one time, he pastored two churches! One, the First Baptist Church of Fort Worth, Texas, was America's largest Church. the other, Temple Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan, became the second largest in the U.S.A.
Like most men, to understand the ministry of Dr. Norris requires a study of his early years in Texas. His godly mother, Mary Davis, Mary Davis Norris, was the most influential person in his life. His father was a drunkard who spent much of the family's much needed income on liquor. He often would drink at a local saloon called "The Blind Tiger." One Saturday night, his mother sent young Frank to the saloon with a note asking the bartender not to sell her husband any whiskey because they had no food. The bartender physically threw him out the door. He walked the two miles back to his home and cried as he told his mother what happened. She said, "Frank, go get the carriage." They went to town. She entered the saloon and pointed to the bartender and asked, "Frank, is this the man who laughed at you and cursed you?" All were silent. She noticed the note she had sent was crumpled up in a glass of beer. Without warning, she pulled out a horse whip she had brought and began to beat and chase that bartender across the saloon. The man finally fell to the floor and crawled out of the saloon. She began to smash the liquor bottles with the wooden end of the whip. J. Frank Norris got his hatred of sin and his courage from his brave mother.
One Christmas day, his mother decided to empty her husband's liquor bottles, so young Frank decided to help. When his father came home he said, "Frank, did you empty my liquor?" Frank told him he did. Werner Norris was so angry (and already drunk) that he beat the boy with a whip until he was unconscious. The next morning when he woke up bloody and bruised, he found his sobered up father weeping and hugging him, crying: "Daddy didn't do it! Daddy didn't do it! Liquor did it!" He said his dad prayed this prayer: "Oh God, liquor has wrecked my life and home. Take this boy and send him up and down this land to fight the curse that wrecked my life."
Despite the hardships caused by drinking, Frank loved his dad and was proud of his courage. Local citizens had been frustrated because of the horse thieves in their place. Werner Norris volunteered to be the star witness against the horse thieves. Everyone talked of his bravery and some bought him drinks as the local court organized the trial.
One day, two men appeared on horseback and began shooting their Colt .45's, hitting Werner Norris. Frank was in the field when he heard the shots. He saw his father drop to the ground and began running toward the men on horseback with a small knife. One of the outlaws, John "Stokes" Shaw, fired three bullets into 15 year old Frank. His father quickly recovered but the boy was near death for some time. Gangrene set in and was followed by inflammatory rheumatism. He was paralyzed and for three years couldn't move a joint without much pain.
During these years, his mother used this as an opportunity to instill in her child an unalterable ambition for great things. She read him stories of the great men of history. After three years of patient exercise, movement came back and his 18th year, J. Frank Norris could stand. He read much--the Bible being the book he read most.
In 1895, the pastor of the Hubbard City Baptist Church, named "Cat " Smith, befriended him. He emotionally and fearfully accepted the Bible as the complete and perfect Word of God. According to Cat Smith, the Bible must be accepted as a miraculous, absolute, infallible, inspired, and complete authority of God. They talked often and long about the things of God. He was the person who most influenced the kind preacher J. Frank Norris would someday become; an independent, fundamental, Bible-believing, sin-fighting, Baptist preacher who also had a big heart for souls.
Encouraged to go to Bible College by Smith, Norris enrolled at Baylor University, a Southern Baptist School, at the age of 19. Some doubted this poor young man with the bad health could make it out but four years later he graduated valedictorian of his class. Going on to Louisville Seminary, he once again graduated valedictorian with the highest grade ever recorded there.
There were two subjects he worked hard to master, the first being Bible. He had a consuming desire to know the Word of God. The second was history. Most great preachers have studied history much but J. Frank Norris probably excelled above all others. Later in his own Bible College he would teach a class on world history completely by memory.
In 1906 he became pastor of the McKinney Avenue Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. This church began to grow and then something happened that had a great effect on Norris' life. He had just finished his Sunday night message when he received a call that his mother was dying.
The funeral was simple and his father came to the service drunk. J. Frank Norris spent that afternoon and evening alone praying, and although he never said what decision he made that day, it seems he returned a different person. Return in to Dallas, he found himself growing weak physically. He developed a chronic cough and was plagued with insomnia. His weight fell to 128 pounds, even though he was about six feet tall. Despite this, he kept on preaching and his church grow in two years to over 1,000 members until the denominational leaders asked him to become editor of the "BAPTIST STANDARD," a Southern Baptist paper.
Under his leadership, controversy and sensationalism soon characterized his paper. He began to attack race track gambling.
"I received a letter written in a very poor hand on cheap rag paper... It was signed by a broken-mother...who wrote me that her only son had gambled on races and lost. That he was caught and went the six-shooter route by his own hand. She wrote me urging, that as editor of the STANDARD, I expose the great evil, so as to save other mother's boys. I went out to the race track and went under the grandstand. I saw 48 book markers... I had the whole thing photographed."
He began to expose this evil with this headline: RACING AT DALLAS FAIR--GAMBLING HELL. The powerful men who owned the race track began to attack Norris. The controversy was so great in Texas that the State Legislature voted to outlaw gambling in Texas. Norris spoke at a crowded special session of the Legislature. The racetrack owners brought 200 demonstrators to fill the gallery and both sides gave their arguments. J. Frank Norris spoke last and was so effective in his message that he was allowed to preach on the evils of gambling until 1:50 a.m. He ended hid message by reading the emotional letter of the bereaved mother and shouted "Shall we fail this godly mother?"
This was his first big fight and he learned that controversy often opens the doors to get his message across to the masses. He never forgot his lesson, nor did he hesitate to use any controversy available to him.
This fight had greatly increased the circulation of the BAPTIST STANDARD but some in the denomination did not like it. Finally, in 1909, J.F.Norris left the paper and accepted a call to pastor the First Baptist Church of Forth Worth at the age of 33.
The vote for his call was 334 to 1. The members were excited that such well known man would pastor them. What they just didn't seem to realize was what a controversial person he was. The one who voted against him later became one of his most loyal supporters. He explains his vote:
"I am not opposed to J.Frank Norris: I am for him but this church is in no condition for his type of ministry. If he comes, there will be allfiredest explosion ever witnessed in any church. We are at peace with the world, the flesh, the devil, and with one another. And this fellow carries a broad axe and not a pearl handled penknife. I just want to warn you."
This church with 19 millionaires was known as the "Church of the Cattle Kings." When he accepted the call he met with a group of men. They told him what a wonderful Church they had and how they would take such good care of his family financially. Norris told them:
"Gentle men, if I will come to you I don't know what will happen. All I know is we won't look like we do now when we get through with each other."
The devil began to work on J.F. Norris as he quit preaching hard and just enjoyed everything. These wealthy leaders gave him beautiful home, nice automobiles, and every year a three month paid vacation. At church he told the best jokes and didn't make any one mad or get anyone under conviction. The members really liked him but J. Frank Norris was dying inside.
He was so depressed that he decided he would quit the ministry and moved to California. He told his wife, "I'm going to quit the ministry."
She replied, "I didn't know you ever began.""Ok then, I'm going to quit before I begin" he answered.
He had received an invitation to preach a revival meeting in Owensboro, Kentucky for a friend and so he thought, "I'll go there and preach and then come back and resign."
At the meeting the place was packed, but Norris had no heart to preach. By Thursday he decided to go home without telling anyone. He took his bag and hid it in the weeds by the railroad track and planned to catch the 11:00 train later that night. He then walked to the tabernacle to preach what he believed would be his last sermon. He tells one of the most thrilling stories I've ever heard:
"When I got to the tabernacle and started to preach, the pastor leaned over and whispered to me, 'Don't you see that man sitting back yonder?' I had already seen him. He said, 'That old fellow with the red bandanna handkerchief around his neck--he's the meanest man in all this country. It's the first time I've ever known him to go to church--he has half a dozen notches in his gun. [Meaning he had killed six people.] If you reach that man you can reach the whole county.' I can see him now as he sat rared back--he had on boots and spurs, and I learned afterwards bells on his spurs, and he looked at me and I looked at him, and we were mutual curiosity to each other. As I stood there tired and weak, and looked at him and I thought-- 'You poor old sinner, it's the last time I ever expect to preach and I'm gonna give you the best I've got!'
"I said, 'If there's a man here who is a sinner lost and willing to come to the Father's house tonight, Come on! Come on! My friends, I can see that old sinner now as he got up and started down the aisle--he had that old red bandanna handkerchief in one hand and his cowboy hat in the other, and you could hear his bells on his spurs jingling as he came. He didn't stop to shake hands with me. He fell full length on his face. When the little Methodist wife sitting over there, she didn't know he was any where around, but when she saw him, she let out a shout that could be heard a quarter of mile and she came running and fell by his side. In five minute there were more than 50 men and women at the altar seeking Jesus Christ, and salvation came and the eleven o'clock train whistled and I went on and they were still being saved, and twelve o'clock came and folks were still being saved, one o'clock came and they were still shouting, and two o'clock came they were still there. When I got back home it was three o'clock and when I walked in Brother White said, 'Fort Worth is trying to get you'...finally I got my feelings under control and I said, 'Wife, we have had the biggest meeting you ever saw--more than half a hundred sinners have been saved, and they're shouting all over this country, and the biggest part of it is Wife, you have a new husband--he has been saved tonight, he is coming home and we are going to start life over again and lick the roar out of that crowd and build the biggest church in the world.' She said, 'I knew it would happen. I've been praying for three days and nights. I haven't slept a wink, and tonight I had the answer to my prayer. I have been praying that this thing might happen, and my joy is complete.' I said, 'Good Wife, I will be home Sunday.'"
Deliberately he set out to stir up some controversy. From Owensboro he wired a large newspaper advertisement to the FT. WORTH RECORD, announcing his coming Sunday evening sermon. "IF JIM JEFFRIES, THE CHICAGO CUBS, AND THEODORE ROOSEVELT CAN'T COME BACK WHO CAN?"
That Sunday night the auditorium was inadequate to contain crowd who had come as the announcement had caused much discussion and interest. He only briefly spoke about the title and then began to talk to the listener about heaven and hell and the cross. He lost the dignity he had always displayed in this church and pleaded with the people to make decision to be saved. At the close he greeted 62 converts who had made their way to the aisle to accept his invitation. It was not uncommon in those days for 100 or 200 people to be added to the membership of the church on a single Sunday night.
He kept advertising sensational sermon title and the crowds came. Mr. Harry Keeton, a long time supporter of Norris, often told of his first time to hear Norris preach. Mr. Keeton was an enthusiastic supporter of Ft. Worth's baseball team. He noticed a large banner across the front of the First Baptist Church as he passed by a few days later. The sign reads:
"WHY DALLAS BEAT FT. WORTH IN BASEBALL Hear J Frank Norris Sunday night at 7:30 p.m."
He came to hear Norris preach as he wanted to know the reason himself. Norris only spoke one sentence about the subject. "Dallas beat Ft. Worth" he shouted, "because Dallas was better prepared for the game. Boys, you had better get prepared for the game of life!" Along with revival taking place in the church came resentment; jealousy, and opposition from many of the longtime church members who disliked his controversial preaching and the great number of poor and common people he was reaching. He had many fights but he called this the biggest fight of his life. He recalled later what happened:
"The first thing I knew I got a call from the Chairman of the Board of Trustees. He was in the wholesale grocery business, a very domineering type of man, and he had been one of my closest friends. He called me up as if I had been the janitor and talked to me with less respect than I would speak to the Janitor. He said in curt words: 'I want you to come down here right away. I want to see you.'
"I started to tell him to go where the fires didn't go out. Fortunately, I decided otherwise, and I went in. I knew then I had entered the ministry. I knew that I was in the supreme fight of my life.
"When I went in he never asked me to sit down...[He had his] feet propped on his desk and just rared back...they could hear him all over the place as he began to tell me what a fool I was and what a mistake they had made and closed by saying,'Norris when we called you, we thought you had some sense, but you're a d--- fool, and this is to notify you that you're fired.'
I walked up close to him, and if the Lord ever helped a poor preacher, He helped me at noon. I was made over. There was something beyond human power and wisdom that shot through my soul. I looked him squarely in the eyes and wasn't afraid of him. I had already come to the point it mattered little what happened to me. All the sense of fear was gone.
"I said, 'Mister, you have the mistake in the call. You are the one who is fired. And next Sunday I am going to tell the world of your threats' and I did, and the fight was on, and it's been on ever since."
During the mass meeting of liquor dealers in Forth Worth, a large advertisement in the newspaper appeared with list of prominent citizens who were to host the meeting. The first three names he knew, deacons in the church, men who had opposed him. He called a meeting of all the deacons Sunday morning before church. He proceeded to read the newspaper ad and said that either they would resign as deacons or in the approaching service he would ask the church for their church expulsion from the church membership. The three left the room, never to return, and determined to destroy him. Most of the other wealthy members left the church with them.
Norris began to fight the devils of Ft. Worth including "Hell's Half Acre," a part of town where 700 prostitutes worked. A private investigator, Mr. George Chapman, was hired to find out more of these illegal activities. He soon brought detailed evidence of 80 houses of prostitution. When he began to name the owners of the houses, many were prominent citizens of Ft. Worth.
Norris personally confronted some of these owners. One cursed him and told him those women were worthless and only fit for that kind of work. Norris announced he was going to expose them in a Sunday night sermon. He said: "I got up the next Sunday night and told the crowd what they said and proved it. One thing is dead certain, the old church is no longer a corpse. Standing room is at a premium. We turned away more than we could get in."
Week after week he preached on "Hell's Half Acre." He advertised the messages with such titles as "The Ten Biggest Devils in Ft. Worth--Names Included." Louis Entzminger, who came about this time to organize his Sunday School, tells about the service:
There must have been at least 10,000 people in and around the tabernacle that night. On the opposite side of the street there was a Methodist Church, and a Methodist preacher trying to conduct a service. But part of Norris' audience was actually sitting on the steps of the Methodist church and leaning against the wall and filling all the vacant space between the church and the street.
"He had advertised that he would give the record of the ten biggest devils in Ft. Worth, and had written registered letters inviting them to be present to answer any charges that he made and to defend themselves. They were all prominent men.
"The newspaper would not publish his announcement, not even paid advertisement...Talk about crowds--only part of the vast multitude of thousands got on the block--the streets were filled all around.
"The 10 men had held a conference and had agreed to ignore the meeting and nine of them did; but one of them, the main one, came...Norris carried out his full announced plan on all 10 of them, calling the roll and giving the record. The man, the top of the 10, when Norris gave record...went to the platform and Norris stood there quietly while [people] began to yell, 'Put him out!'
"Norris beckoned to the crowd and obtained order and said, 'I invited this man to be here, He is my guest and I want to give a respectful hearing...' Then the man proceeded and when he had finished his barraging, Norris stepped forward and quietly pointed his long finger in his face and said, 'Now you have had your say and I want to ask you some questions.'"It is not necessary to go to all the questions, but I remember one of these very distinctly. It pertained to the ownership of the morning paper. The issue was whether the breweries owned it in whole or in part. Norris was fighting the liquor interests tooth and nail and he wrung from this man the confirmation that breweries owned no small part of the stock. When this man made that confession, the crowd arose and roared and this man walked away, head down, and ended the most dramatic hour I have ever witnessed in a public meeting."
The prohibition fight continued and more threats were made against his life:
"In the midst of the hottest prohibition fight any city ever had, a group of the outstanding men of Ft. Worth, held a meeting at which they voted unanimously to run Norris out of town. They notified him.
"The first I knew about it was late one afternoon I saw hand bills pass out as I passed along the streets...'J.FRANK NORRIS SPEAKS TONIGHT AT THE CORNER OF 15TH & MAIN AT 7 O'CLOCK.'
"In that handbill the threat of these men was quoted, and he was speaking there directly in the face of the order for him never to do so anymore...The streets were packed and jammed; half the city was there, and in great confusion. There were three saloons, if not four; one on each corner at this particular place.
"He stood in a Ford roadster to speak.There certainly was a mob spirit there. It developed soon that Norris had several thousand very warm rooters and supporters present. It could have developed into a very serious situation. Norris led that excited mob singing 'The Sweet By and By.' It quieted the whole crowd and they listened attentively.
"...During this same prohibition fight, a friend of Norris' came walking up to the church one day just as he and I started out to go some place. The friend's face was almost white as a sheet, and he was trembling with great excitement, saying, 'Dr. Norris, let me beg you not to go down the street, you stay right here'--I will not quote the man's name. He was one of the leading real estate men of Ft. Worth...'He says that the first time he lays his eyes on you he is going to shoot your heart out, and he is right down there at the corner of 6th and Main,' and he said, I beg you not to go that way.'
Norris looked at me and said, 'Come on Entz'--brushed by the man making some nonchalant response and off we went, and to my surprise and amazement, and I might add almost to my consternation, he proceeded forthwith to 6th and Main Streets.
"Between 5th and 6th on Main Street was the largest bank in the city. In front of this bank was an old time hitching rack. Standing there leaning upon that was this teal estate man who was going to kill Norris on first sight, talking to another man. "Norris and I arm and arm, turned up the street directly to the place where these men were standing talking...All my past life came up before me as I thought of every mean thing I had done and what my wife would do without me. I did not want to be buried in Ft. Worth or be shipped back to Florida where most of my relatives were at that time; I wondered about my insurance... We walked to the entrance of the bank within ten feet of the place where this man who was going to kill Norris on first sight was standing talking. As we walked up to the bank Norris turned his back to the entrance where this man was standing, picked up a magazine off the display stand; we stood there just a moment, but there was no effort on the part of this man who was going to kill Norris on first sight to make any movement in that direction.
"To my amazement and very great delight he and the man to whom he was talking while we paused in ten feet of them, turned away and went angling across the street to the other side and off down the street somewhere...Norris looked at me with what seemed to me then as disdain and said, 'Entz, that's the only way to handle this crowd. If they had the least idea you are afraid of them they would kill you.' "And I am sure now he was right. "I have been in all kinds of experiences with this man, and I say beyond all question he fears no one but God."
These weekly messages on Sunday night divided the city. He was to some a saint and noble crusader, and a devil and vile power-obsessed-preacher to others. Threats were made and an attempt on his life was made as two bullets were fired through his study while he was preparing a message. He would always tell his crowd of the threats and attacks from those who fought him.
He announced a 90 day revival meeting during that summer of 1911. A vote was coming to outlaw liquor in Texas. He set up a giant tent and the crowds came every night. The liquor interests got together and persuaded the mayor to tear down his tent. The malicious destruction of the tent dedicated to the preaching of the gospel only increased the appeal of Norris. He continued to preach outside each night with no shelter but the crowds increased. He attacked the mayor who had connived with the liquor interests in getting rid of him.
J. Frank Norris found there was a large amount of money, $400,000 of city revenue, that could not be accounted for. He preached so much about this and the crowds were so loud that the mayor couldn't ignore it. The Mayor announced he would speak at the City Hall Auditorium and the audience would be limited to "no boys under 21, and no women." Much preparation went into this meeting. 3,000 men packed the auditorium and Mayor Bill Davis spoke for two hours and climaxed his meeting violently shouting, "If there are 50 red-blooded men in this town, a preacher will be hanging from the lamp post before daylight."
A few days, on the evening of January 11, 1912, a fire was reported in the auditorium of the first Baptist Church. The building was partially destroyed by fire. A month later on February 4, at 2:30 a.m.,they set fire to the building again and this time it burnt to the ground. A few blocks away, on the same night, a second fire was discovered at Norris own home. This fire was put out and most of the house was saved.
The mayor persuaded the district attorney, his friend, to file charges against Norris, saying he set the fires. The mayor began to pay witnesses to lie and testify against Norris at the trial. A month later, his home was burned to the ground and he was also accused of setting this fire. He asked for a quick trial. Thirteen attorneys volunteered and served him including O.S.Lammar, and D.W.Odell, two senators.
In spite of the agony of going to trial, the church experienced more growth and many were saved. The trial was then moved to Austin. Under oath, the final and key witness for the prosecution, a driver of a wagon, said he saw Norris at 2:00 a.m. outside under the street light and that Norris entered the church and that fire broke out a few minutes later.
Under cross-examination he was asked how he could see Norris. He said it was because the street light was bright, so he could clearly identify Norris. When the attorney revealed the city records that the street lights were not on that night because the moon was shining brightly, the man confessed that he was lying. When asked who told him to lie, he pointed to the district attorney. Norris was acquitted of all charges and his church rejoiced.
However, it had taken a toll on him, and he spoke of the difficulty and importance of forgiving his enemies:
I learned then, and for all times, to win battles, I could not carry any bitterness of soul. Whether I wanted or not, I must forgive all men. I soon learned that I could not preach with any degree of power, have any liberty in the ministry, and unction in my message, if I went into the pulpit with any unforgiving sin in my soul against any mortal man. This was hard to do. It was a cross of crosses...I didn't want to forgive, and it broke my heart, it humble my pride, it forced me into the darkness of Gethsemane to forgive my enemies. I won the victory through a special Grace, and I had the assurance that if I surrendered all, that the God of all the earth...would change my darkness into light."
He turned his effort into building a Sunday School:
"While we were having tremendous crowds, I fully realized that one thing was needed to teach and enlist the crowds. I did not know how to do that, and nobody knew that I did not know how to build a Sunday School..."
Louis Entzminger had come to work in his church a short time before this and had a tremendous ability to organize a Sunday School. The Sunday School provided stability to the church as the better members became personally involved in teaching the Word of God.
The Church built a new auditorium but controversy stayed. One local newspaper hated him so much that they consistently followed their policy of refusing to print his name, nit even in association with a funeral or wedding. He would advertise each week with hand bills that were spread around the city.
One Monday morning, there was a large canvass banner hanging on the front of the church auditorium with the title of the next Sunday's message, "Nest Sunday Night: SHOULD A PROMINENT FT. WORTH BANKER BUY HIGH PRICED SILK HOSE FOR ANOTHER MAN'S WIFE?" When the next Sunday night came, Norris made this announcement:
"Ladies and gentlemen, instead of one banker being guilty of buying a silk hose for another man's wife, three have made confessions, and the guilty banker in question has thrown him self on my hands, and has asked for the sake of his family, that I withhold his name. I cannot and I will not lift my hand against a man that I believe is sincerely penitent and this matter is a closed incident."
J.Frank Norris preached hard against the Roman Catholic Church, especially in light of the fact that the Knights of Columbus and the whiskey dealers were often in business together. He preached hard against liberalism in both the Southern Baptist and Northern Baptist Conventions. Many preachers followed his example of taking their church out of this denominations and became independent Baptist.
In 1921 Norris began preaching against evolution being taught in Baylor University, his Alma matter. Many Southern Baptist preachers took up for the evolutionist crowd and decided to get rid of Norris. They protected an institution instead of defending the Bible. Norris went to Waco, Texas, where Baylor is located, and rented the city auditorium for $75, and announced that he was going to "hang the apes and the monkeys on the faculty of Baylor University." This roused a great stir. When he arrived in Waco, the sheriff and chief of police told him to go back home and not speak because of the angry crowd meeting in the auditorium. Norris dismissed the idea, told them it was still a free country, and that he was going to preach.
He said, "I arrived at the auditorium an hour ahead of time and every available space was taken and it was impossible to get in through the main door. I had to go into a side entrance and never was there such cat calls, hooting, booing, and yelling. They were plainly, sympathetically, and bluntly told, 'You are running true to form and are giving the finest evidence that your ancestors were braying asses, screeching monkeys, and yelling hyenas."
Norris spent over two hours calling the names and giving the records of the evolutionists and at the close of his speech, the audience was in "profound silence" and their hearts were moved and when the question was put to them whether they believed the Bible or evolution, the entire audience leaped to its feet as one man. This two hour and 10 minute address was published and it was the end of evolution in Baylor University.
In 1926 the mayor of Ft. Worth, F.C. Meacham, took $162,000 of taxpayers money and gave it to the Ignacius Academy, a Roman Catholic School. (This mayor was a wicked man and hated Norris and the church, and did all he could as mayor to make life miserable for both.) Norris printed 62,000 copies of his own newspaper, "The Searchlight," denouncing this and sent his members to distribute it around the city. Norris also charged and proved that the mayor had paid $12,500 to a girl to keep quiet about an illegitimate child.
Meacham owned the large Meacham Department Store, and responded by firing every employee who was a member or symphatizer of First Baptist Church. On Sunday night, Norris had each of those who had lost their job tel their story. The place was packed out as always, and he said:
"...Mr. Meacham's record is well known up here in Judge Bruce Young's court. A few years ago--it is a matter of record that F.C. Meacham had to pay one of his employees--a young lady, $12,500 besides to settle it. The lawyers representing F.C. Meacham were McLean, Scott and Syres, My friends, I say to this great audience, it is a shame in the name of Ft. Worth that a man of this kind should be mayor for one minute's time. There is no dispute about it, it is a court record, but if he wasn't guilty, why did he pay it? He paid it. He isn't fit to be manager of a hog pen..."
Norris told the crowd he would have more to say the next Sunday night. The mayor hired a man named D.E.Chipps to kill J.Frank Norris, and the next Saturday, this man called Norris on the phone. Norris later said of the call:
"It was fifteen of twenty minutes before the trouble. The first words that were spoken when I said 'Hello,'were: 'We are coming up there to settle with you.' I said, 'Who id this?' and the voice over the phone came back and said, 'It don't matter you________." I asked him his name. He told me'....Chipps.' I told him that surely he did not mean what he just said. But he answered back, 'Well, I'm coming up there.' I insisted that he not come. I didn't want any trouble with him. But again he threatened me and said he was coming up to my office, and declared that he would not stand it any longer..."
The church bookkeeper, C.H. Nott, was in the office with J. Frank Norris when Chipps burst in. He tells what happened:
"When Chipps approached Norris, he stated 'I have some thing to say and I mean it. If you make another statement about my friends, I am going to kill you."
Believing he was in imminent danger, J. Frank Norris pulled out a .45 and shot Chipps three times. He staggered a few feet forward and died. Norris called the police and ambulance and finally, his wife. When the Chief of Police arrived he took him to the District Attorney where he was book on the charged of murder.
The quickness with which the charge of murder was brought against him was indicative of the deep resentment by the city officials. Those who hated him spared no expense to destroy him and his reputation.
The church rallied and the church newsletter reported the nest Sunday there were "15,000 present in all services, with 103 additions." Two weeks later the church paper reported "An exceeding high day with 20,000 reported at all services." Once again he was acquitted.
Many of the opponents of J. Frank Norris suffered terrible fates. Mayor Meacham was put out of the office, lost his fortune, and soon and afterward died. The district attorney who framed and forged the indictment in 1912, was the tool of the liquor crowd. While we driving his Cadillac (which was full of liquor) over the Main Street viaduct, he and his lady companion had a head-on crash with a streetcar.. Both were taken in to eternity. their blood, brains, and the broken bottles covered the pavement. A half of a broken quart bottle of liquor was picked up from the pavement near the wreck. It was filled with liquor and brains. It was carried to Norris and he took the bottle and brains and liquor to his pulpit and preached on the text. "Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting."
One of Ft. Worth's richest citizens, who was the "expert witness" on handwriting in the framed testimony, walked out on the railroad track near his house. He laid down and a long line of fright cars cut his body in half. Many other people who fought Norris met a terrible death soon after they tried to hurt him. I could list 29 of them if space permitted.
J. Frank Norris was a soul winner. Often he would be at the doorsteps of a home, early in the morning, while it was still dark. At sunrise, he would knock on his first door of the day . Entzminger remembered their soul winning experiences:
"One of the most unusual experiences we have ever had was the story he told on me about pulling people out of bed at night to win them to Christ. We were both young and strong at the time and went night and day. When he prepared his sermons, I don't know. The biggest part of the time for nearly four years we were going night and day after people.....if all were written, it would fill many volumes--night and day, summer and winter, hot and cold, sunshine and rain, morning, noon and night we have gone from house to house seeking to win people to Jesus Christ...I know of no man who will work longer or harder in season and out of season and who will go forth and pay any kind of price to win men to Jesus Christ. I have already said I do not know when Norris prepares his sermons. He has gone with me six days in the week from morning till night and preached two or three great sermons on Sunday. I do not know when he prepared them. I have seen him go home with half a dozen magazines under his arm at 6 o'clock or 7 o'clock in the evening, and go by his home at 10 or 11 at night and find them scattered around all over the floor or piled up in the waste basket."
Norris once said, "I would do anything to keep a man out of hell."
In 1934, at the age of 58, he became the pastor of the Temple Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan. On alternate weekends, he would preach in Ft. Worth and Detroit (over 1,000 miles away) and pastor both churches. Temple Baptist Church grew rapidly. During the summer he would follow the example in FT. Worth by having giant tent revivals in public places. He secured from the Ford Motor Company, a large five pole exhibition tent that covered 45,000 square feet (about 4,000 square meters). Before the summer was over, the crowds swelled to over 8,000 people and hundreds of converts became members of Temple Baptist. The church grew to become the second largest church in the USA, next to his church in Ft. Worth.
Someone once said of J. Frank Norris: "When the Lord made Norris, He found that he had run out of the element of fear, so He made him without fear."
Dr. J. Frank Norris did have fear, but he only feared the Lord. In August of 1952, he went home to be with the Lord, but his influence remains with us still.
~ Pastor Rick Martin