Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 29, 1961

A Plea For The Source

Earl Kimbrough, Waycross, Georgia

It has been said that if a thing is repeated often enough people will come to believe it whether it is true or not. Likewise, a statement attributed to a man with sufficient frequency will in time come to be regarded as his whether or not he actually made it. Occasionally an injustice is done through careless quoting. In one's zeal to establish a point, a statement may be garbled or taken out of context or attributed to the wrong man. In the latter case, if the man occupies a position which gives greater force and meaning to the statement, the injustice may be proportionately greater. Sometimes unfair and dishonest quotations are innocently received and passed on as being correct simply because the source was not insisted upon. Church bulletins are especially vulnerable on this score.

A statement may pass through dozens of bulletins without the editors bothering to demand or indicate the source. A case in point is the following statement which has appeared in numerous papers and attributed to Mr. J. Edgar Hoover. "Most juvenile crime had its inception in the dance hall, either public or private." This statement first came to my attention about three years ago. Being opposed to dancing and interested in collecting all the information I could on the subject, I clipped and filed away "Mr. Hoover's" statement. I never used it, however, because it didn't seem reasonable to me that "most juvenile crime" starts on the dance floor. I have no doubt at all that a, good deal of evil and crime begins there, but to say that most youthful crime breeds on the dance floor is too sweeping to be credible. Nevertheless, if Hoover said it, I would accept it and make use of it. But I wanted first to know the source of the statement. I sort of like the idea of giving "book, chapter and verse." So I began looking for the source of the statement. As time went on and the statement kept cropping up here and there, I noticed that not one person who used the statement ever told where he got it.

Last fall I decided to write Mr. Hoover and ask him about it. I expected to get a brief note from some assistant either affirming or denying the statement. But about a week later I received from the Director of the FBI a large Manila envelope containing the following letter.

November 16, 1960 Mr. Earl Kimbrough

333 Pineview Drive Waycross, Georgia

Dear Mr. Kimbrough:

I have received your letter of November 8 and appreciate the interest which prompted your communication.

In response to your inquiry, the statement quoted in your letter has on previous occasions been erroneously attributed to me; however, neither I nor any other official of the FBI has ever expressed this opinion.

In view of your concern, I am enclosing some material regarding youthful criminality which you may like to read. I am returning the self-addressed stamped envelope which accompanied your letter.

Sincerely yours, J. Edgar Hoover (signed)

Enclosures (8)

Satisfied with the information I sought, I filed the letter and shortly forgot about it. However, just recently I came across the aforementioned statement again. It was again attributed to Mr. Hoover and again without any source being evident. It occurred to me that the above information needed to be passed on. So here it is. Who actually made the statement attributed to Mr. Hoover and how it came to be so attributed, perhaps we'll never know. But that a lot of people passed it on as his without requiring a source and feeling no need to give one is an all too obvious fact. I would like to close with a plea for brethren who write for and edit bulletins and papers to take the time and trouble to give the source of the quotations they make and the articles they reproduce. So far as I am concerned, a lot of apparently valuable information is rendered useless because it is passed along without proper documentation.