- Historic Sites
Jones Vs. Jones
In Toledo a civic crusade matched the popular mayor against a famed evangelist—both with the same name
April 1961 | Volume 12, Issue 3
But there was even greater opposition to the Mayor’s views on the current business morality, for Jones wanted to take control of public utilities out of the hands of monopolistic corporations and give them, back to the people. He believed that the street railway and illuminating gas companies were mulcting the public, and he urged not only closer regulations of these concerns but eventual public ownership of them. He thoroughly overhauled the Toledo police force and, inevitably, raised the city’s tax rate to provide better municipal services. As a result, those businessmen who did not already consider him unbalanced because of the way he ran his own company soon decided that he was either a crackpot, or worse, a communist. In either case, his attempt to apply the Golden Rule in municipal affairs seemed to them a deliberate subversion of the whole American way of life. By the time his two-year term of office had expired in the spring of 1899, the businessmen and the ministers of the city were solidly united against him. While the businessmen sought to persuade the Republican party to refuse Jones the renomination, the ministers set out to bring pressure upon the churchgoing public with the help of the Reverend Sam P. Jones of Georgia.
When it became known in December, 1898, that the Ministerial Association of Toledo had decided, without a dissenting vote, to ask Evangelist Jones to hold a revival meeting in their city during the month preceding the mayoralty election of April 3, 1899, a re” porter was sent to talk to the ministers. Although they claimed that they were not specifically seeking to attack the Mayor, the ministers admitted that the evangelist was well known for his views on prohibition and civic reform and that “the administration of city affairs would be very likely to get a general overhauling at the hands of the noted preacher.” An editorial in the Toledo Bee under the head, “Two Sam Joneses,” remarked wrily, “There ought to be a hot time in the old town” during the next election campaign.
While the ministers were setting up committees and making general preparations in the weeks preceding the revival, the local Democrats and Republicans were holding their nominating conventions for city officers. The Democrats nominated for mayor a man named Dowling, who promised to campaign against the “hazardous experiments” in public ownership advocated by “Golden Rule” Jones. Jones fully expected the Republicans to renominate him; but to his dismay the party politicians chose a man named Charles E. Russell, who repudiated Jones’s policies and promised to campaign on a platform calling for a “business administration.” While Mayor Jones was still debating whether to admit defeat or try to run as a third-party candidate, Evangelist Tones arrived in town to start the revival.
The first meeting was held at the city Armory on Sunday, March 5. As mayor of Toledo, Samuel M. Jones was asked to say a few opening words to introduce Samuel P. Jones. Since it appeared that the Mayor would not be running for re-election, the tension over the revival had dropped. The Mayor spoke to the crowd in the Armory, saying that he was pleased to see that “a great many Toledoans were interested in the welfare of men’s souls” and that he himself believed that “nothing else but the love of Christ at the heart of society” would save the world. “Things are awfully wrong now, but they are going to be right. He taught us to pray, ‘Thy kingdom come.’ Why then should it not come?” The Mayor concluded by saying it gave him “great pleasure to introduce to you Reverend Sam P. Jones …” But he added, somewhat enigmatically, “There are other Joneses.”
Evangelist Jones spoke on the text, “I have fought the good fight.” “The first thing to be done in Toledo,” he said, “is to separate the crowd … we must make the issue square and draw the line. … You can’t tell who is a church member without asking the preacher. … I’m here for a fight and I’m going to say things to start it. If you can say worse things about me than I can about you, just lam in, Bud. I despise a dull time.”
But the evangelist did not say anything that day about civic corruption or the saloons. For the first week he devoted himself to amusing and scolding his audiences: “The Sweet Bye and Bye is all right, but I hit ‘em in the Naughty Now and Now.” “You have got so now in Toledo you have got to get drunk once in a while to be a gentleman.” “The more dignified a preacher is the nearer dead he is.” The closest his sermons got to the election campaign were such asides as: “Any town that can put up with 700 saloons is the nastiest place next to hell.” And “God will bless no city that desecrates the Sabbath.” He let it be known that he was neither a Democrat nor a Republican: “I’m a prohibitionist from snout to tail.”