‘Goodbye, Mr. Chipps’: The story of J. Frank Norris

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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Imagine if an evangelical leader like Joel Osteen shot a man in his church — and got away with it. This would cause a media firestorm — perhaps unmatched for years, right?

It actually happened … in the 1920s, as is chronicled in a new book on the subject, “The Shooting Salvationist,” written by David R. Stokes.

Though largely forgotten by history, the book recounts the story of  J. Frank Norris, “pastor at the largest Protestant church in America — at the time.” Norris, who preached at what can only be described as a  “mega-church” in Fort Worth, Texas, shot a man named D.E. Chipps in 1926 in the church — and got away with it in the eyes of the law.

(Norris was also featured in a chapter of “Jesus and Gin” by Barry Hankins, whom I recently interviewed).

Norris’ life was a fascinating one — from his rise as the son of an abusive alcoholic — to his efforts of becoming the successor to William Jennings Bryan — to the bizarre circumstances surrounding the shooting of Mr. Chipps. And it is beautifully profiled by Stokes. Listen to audio of our full conversation here. Or download the podcast on iTunes.

Matt K. Lewis