Reassesses the stormy career of the controversial southern Methodist churchman
In the late 1920s and early 1930s "Bishop Cannon" became a household word in much of America. Methodist bishop James Cannon, Jr., was probably the most influential southern churchman between the Civil War and World War II and certainly the most controversial. A paradoxical figure, he seemed as comfortable in the secular world of business and public affairs as in the church, and critics condemned him as an exemplar of the materialistic values of the 1920s.
Plunging into politics in Virginia and the nation to secure and protect prohibition, he dramatically broke the southern taboo against preachers in politics. Often he bested the professional politicians at their own game. Cannon represented the older America of rural and small-town life, Victorian morality, and Protestant hegemony. Best known for leading the South in revolt against Al Smith in the presidential election of 1928, he symbolized the struggle against an increasingly urban, pluralistic society.
Intense, outspoken, and combative, Cannon engendered fierce loyalty and deep enmity. His moment of triumph in 1928 was short-lived. Celebrated by his followers as Protestant America's foremost champion, he was denounced by critics for his anti-Catholicism and nativism. Beginning in 1929, political enemies and disaffected churchmen, notably Senator Carter Glass of Virginia, accused Cannon of stock-market gambling, adultery, and embezzling campaign funds. For the next five years, the bishop became the center of a series of scandals that generated sensational newspaper headlines across the country.
Based on exhaustive research in private papers, many overlooked by earlier writers or only recently made available, Prohibition and Politics reexamines Cannon's long and controversial career as a churchman, reformer, and politician. The result is a fresh, comprehensive, and balanced portrait of one of the most fascinating figures in twentieth-century American history.
Robert A. Hohner is an associate professor in the Department of History at the University of Western Ontario in Canada.
"Robert A. Hohner has written an exemplary monograph in many respects. …he has produced a lively and interesting account of Bishop James Cannon's life" —Virginia Magazine of History and Biography