GERALD L.K. SMITH, MINISTER OF HATE by Glenn Jeansonne

GERALD L.K. SMITH, MINISTER OF HATE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Considering the following that Gerald L.K. Smith once had, it is amazing that he has gone this long without a biographer. Now Jeansonne (History/Univ. of Wisconsin at Milwaukee) undertakes the task--and the result is devastating. Smith, who began his career as a lieutenant of the demagogic Southern politican Huey Long, first achieved fame, during a raucous career as one of the more powerful evangelical preachers of the first half of our century and as a confederate of the Jewbaiting Father Coughlin. Striking out on his own, Smith founded the notorious reactionary hate-sheet The Cross and the Flag, as well as the anti-Semitic Christian Nationalist Crusade. It's hard to imagine that such a craw-thumper could have built a following, but Smith even ran for President three times on third-party tickets (in 1952 his Christian Nationalist Party nominated Douglas MacArthur, who refused to run, causing Smith to campaign for him in absentia). Smith's following reached over ten million, testament to his spellbinding oratory (H.L. Mencken, who had heard both Bryan and Darrow orate, wrote: ""Gerald is the greatest of them all. . .the master of masters, the chamption boob-bumper of all epochs""). Jeansonne's research is meticulously developed, and he even received full cooperation from Smith before his death in 1976 (the author worked on this bio for 15 years). In the end, Jeansonne finds Smith a remarkably complex person, ""sincere, but bigoted, talented and industrious but tragically flawed."" With one stroke, then, Jeansonne has penned the definitive bio of this polarizing figure.

Pub Date: Oct. 19th, 1988
Publisher: Yale Univ. Press