Fort Worth

Former Fort Worth pastor who took over for preacher in infamous murder trial dies

Homer Ritchie.
Homer Ritchie. First Baptist Church of Fort Worth

The pastor who succeeded infamous preacher J. Frank Norris at First Baptist Church of Fort Worth and led the congregation for more than 30 years died on Feb. 3, and his funeral will be held Friday.

Homer Ritchie, known for his fundamentalist teachings, died at the age of 92. He was born in 1926 in Mobile, Alabama, alongside his twin brother, Omar Ritchie, who died in 2014.

In 1952 at the age of 25, Ritchie took over as pastor of First Baptist, according to the First Baptist Church Fort Worth. At the time, the church was an independent fundamentalist Baptist church.

Ritchie succeeded the legendary J. Frank Norris at First Baptist after Norris died. Norris was an erratic, fire-and-brimstone Baptist preacher known far and wide. He stood trial on a murder charge in 1927 for killing an unarmed man in church in what he said was self-defense. He was found not guilty in a trial that drew national attention.

Baylor University professor Barry G. Hankins described Norris as “the most significant Southern fundamentalist of his era” in his book on Norris and the beginning of Southern Fundamentalism.

“Homer faced some terrific challenges following such a leader, what with all of Norris’ colorful history,” said Donald Wills, current pastor at the church. “It was difficult, but Homer rose to the challenge.”

In 1981, Ritchie merged the Rolling Hills Baptist Church with the First Baptist Church. He and his brother co-pastored First Baptist Church of Fort Worth for more than 20 years.

“They had many years of success following Norris,” Wills said.

Ritchie retired in the early 1980s.

Wills said Ritchie’s successful bid to merge with Rolling Hills Baptist Church had a positive impact on the church as a whole. Church membership was bolstered and the congregation grew.

Ritchie was “a straight shooter” and a great preacher, Wills said.

His funeral will be at 11 a.m. Friday at First Baptist Church in Fort Worth.

This article includes information from the Star-Telegram archives.

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Kaley Johnson is a breaking news and enterprise reporter. She majored in investigative reporting at the University of Missouri-Columbia and has a passion for bringing readers in-depth, complex stories that will impact their lives. Send your tips via email or Twitter.