Take Till It Hurts

Elroy Stock writes racist letters and gives big money to little institutions. One recipient, Augsburg College, wanted to cash in without owning up.

 

Elroy Stock grew up in a world where nearly everyone he came into contact with was white, and most were Lutheran. The eldest of four children growing up on a farm in Hoffman, Stock's lifelong preoccupation with "racial and religious preservation" began early. As Stock tells it, he first became worried about the future of "his people" after the local farm-implement dealership fell into the hands of a Catholic--the results of an interfaith marriage. After graduating high school, Stock went to work at an aircraft factory in Southern California, welding wing tips on bomber planes, then served the navy during World War II, with stints at bases in Rhode Island and California. After his discharge, he returned to Minnesota and enrolled at Augsburg, which Stock calls a "a poor man's college." In 1949, after an undistinguished academic career, Stock received his degree in business administration.

Following graduation he went to work as an accountant for West Publishing. And save for a handful of trips to neighboring states, Stock never again left Minnesota. A xenophobic farm boy in the big city, he just stayed close to home and worried about integration. "After the war, everything was getting mixed up. I saw it happening to my own people," Stock, who was initially most concerned about Lutheran girls marrying Catholic boys, reminisces. In the early 1950s, Joseph Zacchello, a Catholic priest turned Protestant, traveled to St. Paul to renounce the Catholic Church and the pope. Stock was impressed with Zacchello's address, and he quickly ordered copies of the speaker's booklets, which he decided to distribute anonymously. From the beginning Stock was secretive about his beliefs. He would scan the daily newspapers for marriage announcements. If he discovered that a Lutheran was marrying outside of the faith, he would mail them one of Zacchello's booklets. There was never a return address and Stock never told a soul what he was doing. "I knew they would run me down," he explains now, paranoid about no one in particular. "I didn't want to be categorized. I knew they'd run me down."

Stock had been mailing out the pamphlets for nearly 20 years when Zacchello died and the supply dried up. In the meantime, Stock began to develop his "belief story." 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." They were dotted with scriptural references, civic exclamations about the Constitution, and newspaper clips.

Over the years Stock gave up the hope of having a family of his own. As a young man he fell in love once, but there was "too much competition." To this day, Stock claims with a distinctly guileless pride that he remains "a virgin bachelor": "My whole body is loaded with love for a woman. But I'm fussy: won't marry a different religion; won't marry a woman of a different heritage. I like beauty in a woman. My kind of beauty. I just can't stand hair on a woman's legs or arms or stuff like that. It just turns me off." Despite his lack of hands-on experience, the subject of sex permeates Stock's screeds. He writes that "sinful man destroyed God's Human races through sex relations with other races" and blames problems from world hunger to national debt on infidelity. He draws no distinction between homosexual and heterosexual adultery, however. And while he is pro-life, he cautions against outlawing abortion because it will only hasten the return of "the back alley butcher."

While working his way up West Publishing's corporate ladder (finally climbing to the position of head cashier), Stock dedicated his free time to his belief story, often rising in the early morning to send out a stack of mail. "I had plenty of work to do," he says. "I would fill grocery sacks with mail. I just kept working and working." He is not sure how many letters he has sent, or to how many people--hundreds of thousands at least, he guesses, maybe a half-million. He did little else. "I've lived a frugal life," he boasts. "Never taken a trip since World War II. I never married, so I never had anybody pushing me around."

In 1982 postal inspectors began receiving complaints about Stock's mailings, which were still unsigned. By 1986 there were hundreds of complaints, and the letters were finally traced back to Woodbury. According to Todd Johnson, a sergeant with the Woodbury Police Department, when investigators arrived at Stock's home, he refused to let them through the door and made no direct admissions. The entire time, though, Stock inquired anxiously whether he had broken any laws. As it turned out, he had not, even though Woodbury Police Chief Greg Orth says the department seriously examined the possibility. "We contacted the county attorney and the city attorney, and they called the attorney general, and they all said, 'No, what he's doing is not illegal. He's not threatening people. He's not trying to get money out of them. And he's not harassing them,'" Orth explains. (These days, when someone complains to the Woodbury police about Stock, they are issued a standard form letter in which Chief Orth lets it be known the department considers Stock "eccentric but harmless.")

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