Fort Worth's power elite, the "top dogs of the city" met daily at the opulent Fort Worth Club. In July 1926, Mayor H.C. Meacham chaired a "closed door off the record" meeting with more than 30 of the club's most influential members. The subject? What could or should they do about the city's J. Frank Norris problem. They felt the out-of-control preacher was doing great harm to their city. Norris would later refer to this as a deep laid conspiracy. One of the attendees was a big and tall man named D.E. Chipps, who, with Norris, had a mutual appointment with destiny.
The first half of Apparent Danger details the history and rise to power of J. Frank Norris and how he not only became the pastor of Fort Worth's First Baptist Church, but how he used newspaper and radio to become nationally known as "the pastor of America's first megachurch." Norris was an eloquent and persuasive speaker and used his talent to grow the church from several hundred to almost 8,000 loyal fanatics in just a few years. One source referred to Norris's flock as "Baptists on steroids." With contacts such as William Jennings Bryan, FDR, and leading pastors in major cities like New York, J. Frank was building a foundation for himself to become the national leader of the fundamentalist movement at a time when evolution and prohibition dominated the social and political news. And then, D.E. Chipps walked into Norris office and the remainder of the book deals with the Texas murder trial of the decade.
F. Lee Bailey is credited with saying something like, "After the first trial, the matter of guilt or innocence is no longer important." For Norris, the first trial was in the media and public opinion. Meacham hired a team of crack defense lawyers to help with the prosecution. That's right, help for the district attorney. Can you imagine Bailey, Cochran, et al, helping prosecute O.J. Simpson? Norris's flock, both local and national, pitched in and hired him a dream team of former prosecutors to help with the defense. It gets curiouser and curiouser! Which leads us to the title of the book, the doctrine of "Apparent Danger": "You can believe your life is in danger by reason of actions of an adversary and kill him, only to discover afterward you were laboring under a misapprehension; yet the homicide you have committed is justified in the eyes of the law."