Skip to main content

James David Bales Papers

Identifier: MC 1256

  • Staff Only

Scope and Content Note

The collection includes materials related to Bales and his family; his career as a teacher, writer, and polemicist; and research files. Series I-IV pertain to his personal life, writings, correspondence, and career at Harding College. Also included are materials related to Harding College president George S. Benson and the National Education Program. Series V-XIII consist of topical research files created by Bales, the contents of which were used to write books, articles, and class lectures. Topics include anti-communism and communism; evolution and creation science; international materials; Senator J. William Fulbright; Mormonism; race and the Civil Rights movement; religion; and people. Also included are general research files. Materials include correspondence, draft writings, scrapbooks, pamphlets, newsletters, post cards, photographs, newspapers, and clippings. Series XIV consists of oversize and audio-visual materials. Topics are similar to those of Series V-XIII. Paper materials include articles, photocopied manuscripts, and magazines. Audio-visual materials include microfilm, audio reels, audio cassettes, and vinyl dictation belts.

For published books authored by Bales, see the James D. Bales collection; for his personal library, see the James D. Bales library.


  • 1914-1995
  • 1940-1995


Language of Materials

The majority of materials are in English. Select materials, particularly in Series VII, are in other languages such as Chinese and Vietnamese

Access Information

Please call (479) 575-8444 or email at least two weeks in advance of your arrival to ensure availability of the materials.

Use Information

Box 391 contains materials restricted in accordance to federal law and are not available for researchers.

Biographical Note

James David Bales was born on November 5, 1915, in Tacoma, Washington, the fifth of eight children. Shortly after his birth his family moved to Albany, Georgia. Upon the death of his parents in an accident involving a train, an eleven-year-old Bales moved to Fitzgerald, Georgia, where he was raised by his grandparents. In 1930 he briefly attended Georgia Military Academy in College Park, later graduating from Georgia Tech High School in 1933.

A member of the Church of Christ, he enrolled at a denominational school, Harding College in Searcy, Arkansas. There he excelled on the debate team, capturing the title of state champion in 1936. The experience would serve him well in the future, as public debate was one of the ways he later used to promote his ideas. Graduating in 1937 as a dual English and History major, the following year he completed a master's degree in English at George Peabody College in Nashville, Tennessee; the college was well renowned for its teachers training program. At Peabody he met Professor Michael John Demiashkevich, a White Russian refugee whose own experiences with communists awoke a deep interest in the young Bales, who was particularly alarmed by the atheistic nature of communism and its hostility towards religion. These facts later spurred him towards his career as an anti-communist polemicist. Having completed his master's degree, he pursued a doctorate in the education department at the University of California at Berkeley. During his doctoral studies he met Mary Smart. The couple married in 1940, and the union produced six children. Having worked as a preacher for several years, in 1944 Bales was then hired by Harding College as a professor of Christian Doctrine. He espoused a conservative, fundamentalist position on religion. He later taught classes on Christianity and Communism. He completed his Ph.D. in 1946. A History and Philosophy of Education major, his dissertation was entitled "A History of Pragmatism in American Educational Philosophy."

At Harding Bales became a close associate of George S. Benson, president of the college. Like Bales, Benson strongly opposed communism and its threat to American institutions, a conviction growing out his service as a missionary to China in the 1930s. To battle communism and to promote the free enterprise system, the college president had established the National Education Program (NEP), which produced radio programs, films, and literature to further its efforts. Bales embraced the NEP, becoming its chief researcher and pamphleteer as well as a spokesman for the organization. His efforts resulted in his rise to prominence in anti-communist circles, and he became a highly sought after speaker. For instance, in 1958 the Nationalist Chinese government of Taiwan invited him to speak. The intrepid Bales took advantage of the occasion to extend his overseas trip to include ninety speaking engagements in several countries, including the Philippines, South Korea, Japan, India, and Belgium, where he attended the World's Fair. In addition to speeches, he made extensive use of debates to promote his ideas. Perhaps his most famous debate occurred in 1966 with Carl Sagan, the topic being the scientific validity of evolution. It is known that Bales participated in approximately forty debates.

However, Bales's primary platform was the written word. He wrote dozens of books addressing a wide range of topics. These included expositions on theology, Church of Christ practices, and various books in the Bible. He authored at least nine books on communism. He wrote against atheism, evolution, and modernism. A long standing dispute with J. William Fulbright resulted in him writing a book on the Arkansas senator's "secret memorandum." Bales's books linked Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement to communism. His works also leveled devastating attacks on Catholicism, Mormonism, Seventh Day Adventism, and the Jehovah's Witnesses. In addition to books, he wrote numerous short articles published in religious newspapers, as well as pamphlets. He was an avid writer to newspaper editors, challenging claims on religious and political issues with which he disagreed.

Bales retired from his academic post in 1981, two years after Harding College earned university status. He chose to remain in Searcy. However, though retired he did not cease his activities as a spokesman for anti-communism and conservative religion. He continued to write articles and books, as well as letters to the editors of various newspapers. He served as an elder statesman opposing the spread of liberal Christianity at Harding University. He also spoke at events sponsored by other anti-communist crusaders, including Christian crusader Billy James Hargis's semi-annual conferences. Bales died on August 16, 1995, and his ashes were interred next to his wife at Oak Grove Cemetery, Searcy.


489 Linear Feet (391 boxes)

Arrangement of the Papers

Material is arranged and described in fourteen series:
  1. Personal Materials
  2. Writings
  3. Correspondence
  4. Harding College Materials
  5. Communism and Anti-Communism Materials
  6. Creationism, Evolution, and Anti-Evolution Materials
  7. International Materials
  8. J. William Fulbright Materials
  9. Mormonism Materials
  10. Race and Civil Rights Materials
  11. Religion Materials
  12. People Files
  13. General Research Files
  14. Oversize and Audio-Visual Materials

Acquisition Information

The James David Bales Papers were donated to Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries on July 7, 1993 by James David Bales and March 10, 1997 by Mary Bales, both of Searcy, Arkansas.

Processing Information

Processed by Todd E. Lewis, Heath Robinson, and Vera Ekechukwu; completed September 2017.
James David Bales Papers
Todd E. Lewis, Heath Robinson, and Vera Ekechukwu
September 2017
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Department Repository

University of Arkansas Libraries
365 N. McIlroy Avenue
Fayetteville AR 72701 United States