J. Frank Norris and the Murder Trial that Captivated America
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Account of a highly publicized 1926 murder in Fort Worth, Texas, and the trial of accused killer J. Frank Norris, a fiery fundamentalist preacher.

Norris, whose Fort Worth church reputedly attracted more parishioners than any other in the United States during the 1920s, preached a gospel of hatred against African-Americans, Catholics and other targets. Using a newspaper he founded and a radio station, he reached audiences in a similar manner as Jerry Falwell decades later. Regularly inserting himself into controversies about the direction of Fort Worth government and business, Norris collected enemies and friends with equal aplomb. A lumber tycoon named Dexter Elliott Chipps became one of the enemies. One day in 1926, Chipps, known for his drinking, womanizing and large physical presence, called Norris at church to announce he would be walking over for a talk. When he arrived, Chipps apparently warned Norris to withdraw certain criticisms of Fort Worth leaders. Claiming to fear for his life, Norris pulled a gun and shot the unarmed Chipps dead in the church office. The criminal trial moved from Fort Worth to Austin because of prejudicial publicity. Journalists from around the nation and world covered the trial, which centered on the question of whether Norris had killed Chipps in self-defense. The jury acquitted Norris, who then remained active in fundamentalist church circles and right-wing political circles until his death in 1952. Sharing the spotlight in the narrative are the Chipps family members, church employees and congregants loyal to their minister, Fort Worth social and political big shots and well-known lawyers on both sides of the case.

A mostly chronological account based on thorough research but marred by repetition and a melodramatic tone.


Pub Date: July 12th, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-58642-186-1
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Steerforth
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2011


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