On Thursday, state politicians in Minnesota discussed a K-12 omnibus education bill. Its most controversial provision re-directs funding from decades-long efforts at school integration into literacy programs.
[State Sen. Scott] Dibble said the bill would harm college-readiness programs, college and career centers and magnet schools which have helped foster diverse learning environments, improved opportunities for minority students, higher adult incomes for low-income students and low-income students completing more years of higher education.
State Sen. Dan Hall disagreed, shocking some with the reasons for his support:
“I watched Minneapolis get destroyed,” Sen. Dan Hall stated on Thursday, “so I not only didn’t want my kids in the school system, I took them out of Minneapolis because they ruined our neighborhoods with integration and [de]segregation.”
Hall didn’t merely think bringing non-whites into his schools harmed the system, he swore it “ruined our neighborhoods”? So Dan moved his family away from the horrors. I haven’t heard talk like that for a while.
“My best friends are minority, they think integration is foolish,” Hall insisted. “It’s a ploy to get more money.”
‘Who’s the dinosaur?’ I wondered. I did a little research and was un-surprised to find out Dan Hall, the Lutheran minister, graduated from Augsburg College in Minneapolis.
Augsburg is infamous for an earlier alumnus of the evangelical institution: Elroy Stock, the king of American hatemail. For decades, Minnesota’s mixed couples of race or religion and parents who adopted children of other races received letters from Elroy, over and over, that highlighted their sins.
In the wake of the civil-rights movement, a higher number of African Americans were making their way to Minnesota. Stock decided that this too was a threat to his heritage. “The colored men thought they had the right to date white girls. I saw that as wrong. And when I saw those girls getting pregnant, that’s when my new mission started,” Stock explains. The short, self-penned letters that Stock began to mail anonymously in the early Seventies were informed by a growing obsession to preserve what he still calls “family religious, family racial, and family biological heritage.”
The total number of mailings probably ran into the tens of thousands. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the post office, after receiving hundreds of complaints about the anonymous hate-mailer, eventually figured out who it was. WCCO outed him publicly in 1988. And, there, the story of the prolific-mailing racist probably would have trailed off, except for the big kicker: Elroy had given half a million dollars to his beloved Augsburg in 1986.
And they refused to give it back. Augsburg College said they were shocked to know what Elroy was really like, so they were no longer naming a building after him. But they were keeping the money.
Elroy grew furious. The controversy between the open racist and his alma mater, who buried a massive donation, went on for a decade. As did, unbelievably, Augsburg’s requests for charity:
. . the college accepted just shy of $18,000 from Stock in the ten years following his disgrace. It took until 1999 for William Frame, Augsburg’s current president, to decide the college would no longer accept his donations–a pronouncement, [Stock's attorney, Thomas] Montgomery notes, that came only after Stock made it clear he would press his naming-rights claim.
Once Elroy decided to go to court, the tempestuous love affair was over. He lost his suit, in 2001, over the statute of limitations. For the curious to witness the legend, reporter Lou Harvin conducted this merciful interview a year earlier with Minnesota’s obstinate purist.
I haven’t yet figured out if Elroy is still alive. But his indomitable spirit lives on in fellow Augsburg-er Dan Hall.