Recent Book Brings Revelations About Crusading Preacher’s Ties to KKK
We know the Rev. J. Frank Norris crusaded from Fort Worth against liquor, liberals, commies and, yes, Catholics.
We know he killed a man in his First Baptist Church office and successfully claimed self-defense.
Now, thanks to recent research, we know he was closer than we ever thought to the Ku Klux Klan.
A Virginia pastor’s recent book on Norris, The Shooting Salvationist, tells us more than earlier Norris books about a Norris associate, the Rev. L.P. Bloodworth, a local Methodist minister who became Grand Dragon of the Texas Ku Klux Klan.
Previous Norris biographers have described the Fundamentalist Baptist pastor as “Klan-friendly” but reported no direct connection to the hooded secret society that dominated Tarrant County and Texas politics in the Prohibition-era 1920s.
But according to David R. Stokes’ book, Norris not only ordained Bloodworth as an independent Baptist pastor but also later hired the by-then-former Klan Grand Dragon to teach at First Baptist Church.
The mutual admiration between Norris and Bloodworth was already clear by July 24, 1926, when Norris was facing a murder charge and Texas newspapers bannered headlines such as “Grand Dragon Says Ku Klux Klan Backing J. Frank.”
“I have known him for 17 years,” said Bloodworth, then 30, “and in all that time he has been an outstanding crusader for Protestant Christianity.”
At the time, Norris was claiming that local Catholics aligned with anti-Klan Mayor H.C. Meacham had rigged a grand jury to indict him.
A report in The Associated Press quoted Norris: “Those who think the Klan is dead are badly mistaken. This fight of mine will rally them. The organization is growing by leaps and bounds.”
From his pulpit one Sunday, Norris invited Grand Dragon Bloodworth to lead prayer.