By 1896, the Alabama-born evangelist Sam Jones was the most famous itinerant preacher in the South. His crusade to Atlanta drew an enormous crowd and demonstrated how much his equal opportunity' sermons, in which he was hard on everyone,' resonated with a Southern audience. In an age of emerging political demagogues all over the South such as Ben Tillman and Tom Watson, Ed Ayers calls Jones more than a demagogue,' as he, like the South itself, denounced worldliness even as he became more worldly.'
Jones did more, however, than denounce traditional Christian sins such as dancing. He also took political stands during his crusades by campaigning for organizations like the Women's Christian Temperance Movement, the Salvation Army and rescue missions for prostitutes, as well criticizing local leaders, as he did in Atlanta by criticizing the Georgia state legislature and the Capital City Club.