The story of Rev. J. Frank Norris killing Fort Worth, Texas, businessman Dexter Elliot Chipps in July of 1926 has interested me for a long time. I first heard about it via a passing comment someone made to me in the early 1970s, and the idea to write about it lodged in my head many years ago. Along the way I picked up items here and there and filed them away. Then occasionally I’d pull out the file out—first a swollen folder, then a small box, then several more—and review the ever-accumulating material. Sometimes though, the boxes would go undisturbed for months at a time.
Over time, the files bulged and one day I noticed that I had gathered a substantial amount of poorly organized stuff. My wife “encouraged” me to clean the mess up and do something with the material I had collected. Eventually indexing more than 6,000 pages of newspaper articles, court records, and notes from other published works, this story began to take shape in my mind—then on paper.
In 2007, I finally decided to commit serious time and energy to this project. I made several trips to the fascinating city of Fort Worth, Texas. I likely wore out my welcome at its wonderful public library’s Central Branch on West Third Street; located just a block away from where the central element of this story took place. Walking the city’s downtown streets, I tried to imagine what it must have been like when the electric interurban competed with Model T’s for control of its thoroughfares. I tried to envision a long-ago time when the oil boom was peaking and everything still felt at least a little like the old, wild west. And I traced the path D.E. Chipps took eight decades ago as he briskly walked toward his rendezvous with gunfire, trying to picture the curious crowd filling the street at the scene