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On several sporty occasions I’ve dined at Angelina’s Italian Bistro in Downtown Detroit with BTL co-publishers Jan Stevenson and Susan Horowitz, loyal Tiger baseball fans.
From our windowside table, the Comerica Park fireworks are spectacular; as are many of the attendees parading by in cutoffs for my out fielder benefit. Straight owner and BTL advertiser Tom Agosta has been a supporter of Detroit’s LGBT community for many years.
Grrrrrr! The Tigers aren’t doing their best this year. Justin Verlander has a case of revocable waivers. As far as Justin’s concerned, I’d revoke my waivers any time — or, position on the playing field — for him.
(I was in the downtown vicinity when the team won the ’68 World Series. The celebration was wild; pitcher Denny McClain a hero, whose future seemed bright, promising, a natural for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, he, too, had some later revocable waivers of another kind.)
On our last visit I redeemed a gift card at the bar, recalling that Angelina’s was once the Madison movie house. Where I stood was its lobby, and there in my late teens I got a special “blessing” by the Right Reverend James Francis Jones. Prophet Jones (1908 – 1971).
When I approached Prophet Jones he was alone. I hadn’t a clue what he was doing unescorted, but I recognised him from TV and newspaper pictures. “Aren’t you Prophet Jones?” I asked. He was cordial, gracious, conservatively dressed. Soft spoken in voice, cultured in diction.
As a lark I asked for a blessing. He gave me a who-is-this-presumptive-white-person look, and said, “Thirty years fallow, twenty years a harvest of your good.” He also invited me to call his secretary and make an appointment to visit his fabulous 54-room Arden Park mansion. I never did.
Jones’s flamboyant lifestyle as a Detroit preacher was praised and damned in Time, Newsweek, The Saturday Evening Post, Ebony, The Pittsburgh Courier, and Detroit mainstream and African-American newspapers.
Although he received birthday greetings from Michigan Governor G. Mennen Williams and had been an invited guest at Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1952 presidential inauguration, many African-American civil and religious leaders called him a showbiz phoney.
Jones wore one gold earring (God whispered into his right ear), ruled from an ornate $5300 throne, and wore a full-length mink coat — price tag $13,500 — a gift from Chicago schoolteacher sisters whose mother he had healed before coming to Detroit in 1938.
He held court at the Universal Triumph, the Dominion of God, Inc., with his flock of lords, ladies, princesses and princes (and presumably many queens) at the Oriole Theater, a renovated movie house.
Doors were locked to keep drowsy royalty and commoners from sneaking away during the three-hours-long midnight telecast services. He preached that Mother Mary was black, that she was turned away from the inn because of racial discrimination, and that Jesus was not crucified but lynched.
Jones’s followers couldn’t join social clubs, drink coffee or alcohol, or bear children out of wedlock. They could, however, be patriotic. (They purchased over $12,000 in Victory Bonds during the war effort.) The Prophet was suspected of dealing in numbers big time and an undercover cop was assigned to find out just how.
The novice vice cop, John Henry, 24, uncovered little evidence of numbers involvement by Jones, other than giving out three-digit Bible verses for donations of $5, $10, and $20. Unfortunately, Jones blessed Henry’s exposed ripcord when they were alone during a private healing service, or so the paratrooper-turned-vice-cop alleged.
“Prophet Jones Jailed on Morals Charge” blared the February 21, 1956 banner Free Press headline, with other papers gleefully tooting in. Thanks to a smart lawyer, the jury found Prophet Jones not guilty. It was a case of entrapment, pure (but not so simple). As Jones left the courtroom in dark glasses his followers chanted, “All IS well, prophet!” But they were wrong.
No matter who you bailout with, you can’t walk on water without sinking. Especially in high heels. Oh, ah-men! The Prophet’s last church venue is now the current Fine Arts building housing the Detroit ACLU office. (All is not well! Prophet Trump now holds court.)