JAC Online

JAC Exclusive Interview with
author Colonel Eddie Hobgood

Colonel Hobgood celebrates the launch of his book THE SANCTIFIED SALVATIONIST SHOWMAN, published by Crest Books, 2024.


J.A.C.: This is the first biography of Joe The Turk – what took so long?


EH: That’s a really good question! When I began this journey with Joe 30 years ago, I was surprised to find that no one had written a book about him. I could find bits and pieces of articles here and there. Someone did a series of stories about him, but they were so cartoonish and I think that was some of the problem - then and now. I think people thought of him as fluff and no substance, so why write a book?


J.A.C.: And what took YOU so long?


EH: Back in the early 2000s, I developed this strong feeling to want to tell Joe’s story more fully. As the Territorial Youth Secretary for the USA South, I had the opportunity to go to NHQ a couple times each year. I would always stay an extra day to look through the files and scan The War Cry to find stories about Joe. There were literally hundreds of articles…Joe faithfully posted his travelogue in the War Cry and because his stories were so sensational, people wanted to read them. There are hundreds of newspaper articles as well. I took out a one year subscription in newspapers.com and anytime I had a few spare moneys during that year, I would search for articles. Fortunately, many newspapers have archives. Unfortunately, many do not. Nevertheless, I ended up with about 8 3” binders of articles. I also did research in New York at THQ, where there’s a treasure-trove of Joe’s personal belongings and files. I say all of that to say, researching wasn’t that easy and it was very time-consuming. Then there’s Susan Mitchem, the National Archivist, who has fed me dozens and dozens of photos, articles from other periodicals and any little tidbit she came across in her research. That filled up another couple binders! So many of the articles were not in pristine condition, so I determined I would transcribe them in Word docs so that at some point in the future, they can be placed online for other researchers. That process took me more than 5 years in my spare time. I still have a couple notebooks to transcribe, but I finally said to myself that if I kept putting it off, then I would probably be dead before the book was written. So this past summer, I hunkered down every evening and wrote until I had a manuscript that I believed would be beneficial to The Army.


J.A.C.: Tell us how you came to Jesus and to where you are now?


EH: I came to The Salvation Army at the age of 9 through an open-air meeting that was held in my neighborhood. At first, I thought it was the circus. There was a man playing a cornet, a woman playing the accordion, another man beating a big bass drum, and a rather rotund lady singing at the top of her lungs (badly), ‘Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?” These were my people and almost immediately I started attending the corps. First thing they did was put a cornet in my hands and taught me to play, and from there, became a junior soldier. When I was 12, I went to summer camp for 2 weeks. Week 1 was youth camp and it was during that week I had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. I asked him to be my savior and trusted him to forgive me from my sins. The 2nd week was Music Camp and on that final Sunday, I felt God calling me to Officership. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but I knew that God had a plan for my life and it would be something beyond my wildest imagination if I would be obedient and trust him with my future. Today, my faith is as strong as it has ever been and I am finding that even at this stage in my life (as a retired officer), God is giving me opportunity after opportunity to bear witness to his faithfulness in my life. I’m as excited about serving Jesus today as I have ever been. The best is yet to come!!!


J.A.C.: What sparked your fascination in Joe? 


EH: I was asked to portray Joe as a part of a living Army history museum. It took about 15 minutes to walk through it and interact with the people. My job was to entertain the crowd that was outside waiting to go in. So I did some research, which didn’t amount to too much, but I was able to pull a 12 minute monologue together and I wrote a song to end the presentation with. I presented that monologue more than 50 times over the course of that conference. People kept inviting me to come share it, so when I became TYS and was looking for a less-preachy way to communicate with young people, I believe I was led to expand Joe’s story and share it through the Arts. By this time, I had been the TYS for 4 years and had gathered a lot of good materials from NHQ.


J.A.C.: What part did your own shows play in this process?


EH: Putting together this 50 minute presentation forced me to dig deep and look beyond the showman to the real person of flesh and blood and feelings and pain. I wanted to make him a real person and not a cartoon character that he had been made out to be over the years. I remember the theme verse in our territory that year was , I Peter 2:9b - …that you may declare the praise of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. That’s Joe’s story in a nutshell. A lot of the divisions were focusing on Army history over the weekend and it all fell into place with making the presentation that I have been doing since 2005, to declare that message to our kids - even in the face of persecution. A lot of our youth are afraid to be bold about their faith and I prayed Joe’s story would help with some of that.


J.A.C.: What is Joe’s deserved place in SA lore?


EH: In my opinion, Joe was the epitome of a Salvation Soldier. He was so overwhelmed by what God had done in his life - and he had sunk to the gutter - that he could not adequately repay God for this new life he found in Jesus. He also found a new family - the Sallys - and he loved The Army with all of his heart and he was bound and determined to not give up without a fight. He fought against those who denied their constitutional right to assemble in public and he made it known far and wide how his comrades were being treated on the main streets of towns and cities across the country. He was a true pioneer & evangelist. He was known all across America and thousands would come out to see him when he came to town. Yes, he was eccentric and maybe even a little obnoxious with his blaring cornet and his India Ink stamp, but he was all in!


J.A.C.: How was Joe like Jesus?


EH: I think he was most like Jesus in that he spoke truth - he was very blunt, and he never missed an opportunity to speak to people about their souls. He was in a couple of train wrecks and when the passengers had to disembark the coaches, he immediately struck up an open-air. When he traveled by boat, he used the captive audience to his advantage and had a praise meeting. On a transatlantic voyage, he had the passengers marching around the ship while he led, playing his cornet! Joe was about the Good News. He used his accoutrements to attract people, but once they were reeled in, he went straight for their souls.


J.A.C.: What of Joe’s life has directly or indirectly influenced your life?


EH: I was a junior soldier when I first heard about Joe. He was on a trading card that was a part of the junior soldier curriculum. Honestly, it wasn’t until I started presenting the fuller version of his life that he began to influence me. There’s a very serious moment in the presentation where Joe shares from his heart about how important it is to share our faith, even in the face of rejection and mockery. As an introvert, I’ve struggled with sharing my faith with strangers. Having to memorize 50 minutes of dialogue, it has become more than just words I recite. These words of Joe have penetrated my heart and I find myself more passionate about sharing my faith and more urgent as well. Of course, sharing the presentation opens up doors everywhere for deeper conversations with people. I don’t know how I got the blessing of telling his story, but it has been and continues to be one of the greatest joys of my life.


J.A.C.: What should salvationists take away from absorbing this book?


EH: Hopefully, those who know of him, will see him in a different light, a more well-rounded representation. He had a family that he left behind. His heart was broken when they died the way they did or had to flee from their home to avoid being murdered in cold blood. I hope people see how God can use anyone of us, even with our eccentricities, to be witnesses to the truth that sets people free. There is such beauty in being exactly who God called you to be. I believe that is when he is most able to use us for his glory!


J.A.C.: How would The Army look different if we embraced the principles of Joe’s life and warfare?


EH: Well, first thing, we’d still be having open-air meetings…2 or 3 a day! During the pandemic, when we couldn’t gather in our buildings, the corps I attended started going to apartment complexes and playing our instruments in the parking lot or in the driveways of our soldiers. It took me back to what brought me to The Army. If I were a kid today, I most likely would never have an encounter with The Army and I often think about how many thousands of kids and adults we’ve missed because of that. I understand life is very different, but one of the things we proved during the pandemic was that The Army was at its best outside the walls. It forced us to take ministry to the streets and out of doors.

I think we have to find ways to be bold and courageous in sharing our faith. Joe lived his faith in the public eye as well as inside The Army hall. How different would our Army and world be if we did the same?


J.A.C.: What’s your hope for your book?


EH: First of all, that people would read it, and when they do, are first of all, inspired and blessed by the story of the Sanctified Salvationist Showman. I really pray the book is worthy of people’s time and resources. I pray it will spark something within us to do and dare for Christ in ways we never have or haven’t in a long time. I hope the book is good! If it isn’t, don’t tell me!


J.A.C.: What’s your hope for The Army?


EH: I love The Salvation Army with all my heart. It is the instrument God used to bring me to faith and to not only receive, but work out my calling. I hope this book inspires other would-be Joes to be brave and allow God to use their uniqueness and passion to honor and glorify him. For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be an actor and in theatre. When I fully accepted my calling, I figured I’d have to give up that dream. Boy, was I wrong. In every appointment I have had as an officer, God has given me opportunities beyond my wildest dreams to embrace my uniqueness and passion for the Arts. What a life - I wouldn’t trade a moment of it - the good, the bad, the difficult and the amazing - it’s formed me into the person I am today. If you had any idea how my life started out…but God took it and all of its imperfections and used it. I pray always it has been for his honor and his glory!













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