Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Speech Communication


With an inimitable style out of the rural south, peppered with caustic, biting criticism and practical illustrations, Sam Jones combined the rustic, earthy qualities of southern hill country religion with the full auditoriums, careful schedules and trained assistants of urban religion. After an "apprenticeship" in North Georgia Methodist Circuits and as an advocate for the Decatur Orphan's Home, Sam Jones took his brand of revivalism throughout the United States and into Canada. He consistently attracted capacity crowds, large numbers of decisions, strong controversy and extensive press coverage. The purpose of this investigation was to study the preaching career and sermons of Sam Jones from the start of his career in 1872 through the middle of 1885, the year of his complete emergence as a national figure in revivalism. Sermons for analysis came from two campaigns, Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee, selected because of their significance in his emergence and the existence of reliable sermon texts. The first part of the investigation involved a survey of the speaker's background, training, experience and other factors which may have contributed to his speaking success. The second part focused on the speaker's approach to revivalism, including a survey of the theological, social and political views which he ultimately expressed in his sermons and a study of the organization and conduct of both the revival campaigns and individual services in which the analyzed sermons were preached. The third part of the study involved a rhetorical analysis of eight selected sermons preached in the 1884 Memphis campaign and the 1885 Nashville campaign. The structure, lines of reasoning, forms of support, style and responses to his sermons were studied. In both campaigns Jones accepted reluctant invitations and faced considerable opposition. In spite of these handicaps he generally preached two to three times a day to overflowing crowds. Jones saw his task to be that of aligning forces of God, "born again" church members, against the forces of evil, all others. The test which determined whether a person was among the forces of God was his deeds. A cardinal area of Jones' advocacy of the importance of deeds concerned prohibition. Jones relied on six basic forms of support: Scripture, illustrations, examples, hypothetical reasoning, humor and comparison-contrasts. Emotional appeals occurred more in delivery than in content. Speaker credibility was his strength as people came more to hear Sam Jones than to hear a sermon. The study concluded that Jones drew from his own rural background and experiences for sermon illustrations. That content was conveyed with biting humor and a colloquial style that could both commend and condemn. He took the revivalistic traditions of his predecessors, altered them to meet the flavor of his personality, demands of the situations, nature of the audiences and speaker's objectives, and passed on a legacy to revivalists who followed.