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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
Throughout the month of March the city’s ministers (with a few notable exceptions) denounced Mayor Jones from their pulpits and called for a civic cleanup. The Reverend G. A. Burgess, a Congregationalist and a prime mover in bringing the evangelist to the city, quoted statistics in his Sunday morning sermon on March 19 to show that private ownership of public utilities was cheaper than public. “But the financial question is not the leading question,” said Burgess; “moral legislation” was.
Mayor Jones’s failure to enforce the laws against the saloons was “anarchy.” Mayor Jones tried to counter such attacks by insisting that the moral question was a red herring. “It is a false issue raised to divert the public mind from, the main question … the prize they are playing for is nothing less than one of the most gigantic schemes of franchise-grabbing ever concocted.” As the Mayor saw it, the ministers were the dupes of “the corporate interests,” particularly the city traction company, which had been out to defeat Jones from the start in order to prevent his taking over the street railways from which they made exorbitant profits.
Ironically, Mayor Jones’s election campaign had, in its way, as much religious fervor as the revival meetings which Evangelist Jones was conducting at the Armory. The Mayor’s good friend, the writer and future diplomat Brand Whitlock, said of his political rallies: “He was like an evangelist, in a way, and his meetings were in the broad sense religious. … His evangel was that of liberty.” Like the evangelist, Mayor Jones had a lively sense of humor and liked a good fight. He was a good debater, and he loved to sing the campaign songs which he wrote himself to the tunes of old Welsh folk songs, Methodist hymns, or stirring marches. The words which he wrote for his campaign song of 1899 epitomized his philosophy in all its faith and optimism. It was set to a tune which may well have been selected in acknowledgment of the evangelist’s part in the campaign; the tune was “Marching Through Georgia.” The Mayor, however, entitled it, “Industrial Freedom.”
Sing aloud the tiding that the race will yet be free, Man to man the wide world o’er will surely brothers be, Right to work, the right to live, let everyone agree, God freely gives to the people. Hurrah, hurrah! the truth shall make you free; Hurrah, hurrah! for dear humanity. Right to work let all proclaim, till men united be In God’s free gift to the people.
But the Mayor did not campaign on such a vague platform as this. His campaign promises included the following concrete planks: “Public ownership of all public utilities.” “No grant of new or extension of existing franchises” by the city to private interests. “The abolition of the private system of doing city work.” “A minimum wage of $1.50 per day for eight hours of common labor.” “Organized labor to be employed on all public work.”
Evangelist Sam P. Jones struck his culminating blow for righteousness at the final meeting of the revival on March 22. There were various reports of the exact words he used. Brand Whitlock quoted him as saying, “I am for the Golden Rule myself, up to a certain point, and then I want to take the shotgun and the club.” The headlines of the Toledo Bee read: “Jones’ Farewell. … Says Shotgun Is Better Than the Golden Rule in Politics.” The version recorded by the Bee ’s reporter had Jones saying, I have nothing to do with politics, but I have to do with a theory that will land your town in ruin. … I see a mad dog coming over my fence and my wife and children are there. Do I say, “I believe in the Golden Rule for that dog?” The mad dog in this town is the saloon and the shameless houses. … I say the way to meet a mad dog is with a shotgun.
During the remaining week of the election campaign the Anti-Saloon League organized rallies endorsing Russell; the ministers continued to deliver sermons demanding law enforcement, and the two newspapers printed cartoons and editorials lampooning the Mayor’s crackpot ideas. But all their efforts and all the words of the evangelist came to nothing. On election day Mayor Jones carried every ward in the city except one and was re-elected by a landslide. The vote was: Jones—16,733; Russell—4,266; Dowling—3,148. According to the Toledo Blade , the Mayor’s “personal popularity” made the voters “overlook his visionary theories.” “The socialistic theories of Mr. Jones, dangerous as they appear to the great mass of thinking men, appeal to a class of voters who have nothing to lose and everything to gain.” The Mayor put it somewhat differently: “The people kept their minds on the one great question—Shall we have the Golden Rule of all the people or the rule of cash by a few people?”