Friday, April 4, 2008

Was Joseph Franklin Rutherford a drunkard?

There are court documents -- testimony and exhibits that bear on this matter in the Moyle v. Fred W. Franz, et al. case, docket # 15845, along with other material elsewhere, on the prominance of alcohol at Bethel and Rutherford's drinking habits.
These include:
1. WTB&TS lawyer Olin Moyle's original letter to Rutherford (dated 7/21/1939), Exhibit 4in the Moyle transcript, that claims that "under your [Rutherford's] tutelage there has grown up a glorification of alcohol and condemnation of total abstinence" at Bethel, mentioning several experiences he had at Bethel along these lines, that " 'One can't be a real Bethelite without drinking beer' ", and which said specifically to Rutherford: "You have publically labelled total abstainers as prudes and therefore must assume your share of responsibility for the Bacchus-like attitude exhibited by members of the family" (pp. 1736-1737).
2. The testimony of Olin Moyle, who related some of the things said by the boys in the elevator, "the boys would remark there, make allusions, wish they had a barrel of beer around, how nice it would be to have a barrel of beer" (p. 359), who described new Bethelites being broken into the habit of drinking beer (p. 359), who mentioned the frequent use of beer and "stronger stuff" by the factory staff in the evening (p. 360), and who related an incident in which an intoxicated factory worker rang an alarm bell late at night as a joke (pp. 361-362).
3. The testimony of Phoebe Moyle, who described seeing many empty liquor and whiskey bottles in the rooms at Bethel when she worked as a housekeeper (p. 1587), and who claimed to have been teased by brothers in the elevator saying that she couldn't take her liquor (p. 186).
Peter Moyle's letter, published in the December 1972 United Israel Bulletin, that "it has also been known, albeit carefully 'covered', that Rutherford liked his women and his whiskey" (cf. Horowitz 1986:65).
4. The letter by Candian branch overseer Walter Salter to Rutherford (dated 4/1/1937, and mentioned in the 5/5/1937 issue of the Golden Age) that declared that "I, at your orders, would purchase cases of whiskey at $60.00 a case, and cases of brandy and other liquors, to say nothing of untold cases of beer. A bottle or two of liquor would not do; it was for THE PRESIDENT and nothing was too good for THE PRESIDENT. He was heaven's favorite, why should not he have everything that would gratify his desire for comfort".
5. Jim Penton reported a number of accounts by those who knew Rutherford, including an elderly woman in San Diego who "sold him great quantities of liquor when he came to purchase medicines in her husband's drugstore", and former Bethelites who "recount tales of his inebriation and druken stupors" (Penton 1997:72-73). He also mentions an interview he conducted in April 1972 with Frank Wainright, late Secretary-Treasurer of the IBSA of Canada, wherein Wainright reported the illegal importation of liquor from the Canadian branch office to Bethel during Prohibition.
6. Edmond C. Gruss similarly interviewed a former Bethelite (Informant #1 in Gruss 2003) who reported that "old timers say his [Rutherford's] drinking was covered up, to the degree possible, by associates Frederick W. Franz and Nathan H. Knorr," and who specially mentioned A. H. Macmillan as telling his father that Beth Sarim was built "for no purpose other than to get the drunken and declining Rutherford out of Brooklyn".
Rutherford also had an obsessive interest in Prohibition, which received much attention in his talks and writings, including a booklet on the subject published in 1930 entitled Prohibition and League of Nations -- Born of God or the Devil, Which?


Chelsa said...

Good post.

Anonymous said...

My name is Mark Palo and I am sober 21 years and out of the Watchtower for about the same period. The basic fact is that it was at Bethel where I was taught how to drink. Starting at age 15 when I spent my school vacation
volunteering for pre-assembly work in the sound dept. I was under aged when I was introduced to my first beer. Almost everyday after our work was finished myself and some younger Bethel boys would have some beers and on Saturday the hard stuff was introduced. I became an alcoholic at age 16 but until near the end of my drinking I thought I had it under control. If one could have seen the trash on Sun. & Mon. mornings at Bethel it would have made a distillers heart glad.Rutherford's strange and sick doctrinal beliefs most likely a result of DTs and strange booze dreams. I know I've been there.