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Reason for the Ryman, The Only Sam Jones is Dead (Tombstone Tuesday)

Sam P. Jones
Mentally heroic, magnetic to a degree which drew all men to him, physically and morally a man militant and unafraid, Sam P. Jones was known to thousands in all parts of this country. [1906]

But I had never heard of Rev. Jones before arriving at his draped obelisk at Oak Hill Cemetery in Cartersville, GA the spring of 2011. And still didn't think much of him until learning he was the reason Nashville's famed Ryman Auditorium was built. Yes, the home of the Grand Ol' Opry. That Ryman Auditorium. A little factoid such as that will make this fan of country music dig a little deeper.

Photo © 2011-2013 S. Lincecum

The story goes that Samuel Porter Jones, born 16 October 1847, was quite the whiskey drinker. It ruined his law career and strained familial relationships. He even described himself as "the wickedest young man in Georgia," and further stated: "I was going to hell a mile a minute when I stopped and went the other way." That turnabout came on the deathbed of his father in 1872. Sam P. Jones never looked back, becoming one of the most well-known evangelists and revival preachers in the United States.

One of the things Rev. Jones was known for was his epigrams. Here are a few:

"The devil can run a mile while the church is putting on its boots."

"Deathbed repentance is the retreat of a coward and an insult to God."

"I hate theology and botany; I love religion and flowers."

"The tune of America is pitched to the dollar."

Ryman Auditorium
from Wikimedia Commons
Reason for the Ryman
On 10 May 1885 Thomas Ryman, owner of several saloons, hears Rev. Samuel P. Jones speak: "According to legend, Thomas Ryman was fed up with Sam Jones' preaching against drinking and gambling, so he and a few friends went to Jones' tent revival to raise a ruckus. But something in Jones' speech affected Ryman so deeply that he repented his sins and vowed to build Jones a great tabernacle so that he would never again have to preach under a tent again in Nashville. Ryman became wholly focused on the construction of the Union Gospel Tabernacle which would later be renamed the Ryman Auditorium in his honor." []

Rev. Sam P. Jones died 15 October 1906, the day before his 59th birthday, near Little Rock, Arkansas. He had just completed a preaching stint at a revival in Oklahoma, and was on a train bound for his home in Cartersville, preparing to celebrate his birthday with a family reunion.

Prior to his funeral in Cartersville, Jones' body lay in state at the capitol rotunda in Atlanta. The day and atmosphere surrounding his funeral was described in the Biloxi Daily Herald (Mississippi), 20 October 1906:
"Living, the Rev. Sam P. Jones was loved with a tenderness that one sees but once in a life time. Wrapped in the cold arms of death, this love was given an expression which was confined to no class or condition, no age, color or sex.

Cartersville, where Sam Jones was best known, by reason of the fact that it was his home, seemed paralyzed by paroxysms of grief which followed one another in quick succession whenever the name of the dead evangelist was mentioned or when some familiar object reminiscent of his was seen.

Even nature was in accord with the grief of the city. The sky was overcast with banks of dull, threatening clouds, which seemed at any moment ready to turn loose the full flood of their sorrow. Cartersville had the silence of the sepulchre during the entire day...Religions for the once were as one...Knots of people congregated at each corner, and Caucasian and negro freely fraternized, their common grief being a bond which brought all together and for the time obliterated all barriers."
This is a long winded post, I know. But I must note that Rev. Sam P. Jones of course had his detractors. And the following article from the 17 October 1906 Jonesboro Evening Sun (Arkansas) seemed to sum "things" up nicely:

Rev. Sam P. Jones
Born Oct 16, 1847
Died Oct 15, 1906
"They that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the
stars for ever and ever." -- Daniel 12, 3.
The only Sam Jones is dead, and with his death one of the most unique characters in the later times passes from the stage of action. It is not difficult to estimate a character like Sam Jones. His work was so individual, and stands out in such well defined proportion that it may be viewed with definite entirety.

No sooner does a great man die than the world hastily takes account of its loss -- that perhaps, being the world's selfish way of showing its appreciation -- and in the death of Sam Jones the loss is large. The first thought of those who regret the material loss of his work might be that it is fortunate he lived so long.

There are those who did not admire Sam Jones and his methods. They were not exactly canonical. And the host of imitators who succeeded only in impressing the fact that they were imitators, is one of the results of Sam Jones' not edifying but for which he could not be held to account. But good resulted from his work and in generous proportion. His galling satire reached many a hardened sinner, who repented because he admired the manner in which he was called to account."

See also: 3 Children of Noted Evangelist Sam P. Jones

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Anonymous said…
Good post. Worth the words. Jeannie Weller Cooper PC FL

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