“Remember where you heard it first!”

My mother was often way ahead of the curve in recognizing the future significance of things, such as events, people or innovations.

We grew up with frequent family discussions about the news or other happenings. Often she would cap a prediction — or her recollection of a past prediction come true — with one of her favorite phrases: “Remember where you heard it first.”

Last week I heard about the 40th anniversary of the historic 1977 broadcast of “Roots,” the extremely popular television mini-series adaptation of “Roots: The Saga of an American Family.” The book recounted Alex Haley’s searched for the names and histories of his ancestors, who were Africans sold into slavery in the American South, and also for his post-slavery relatives, some of whom had mixed-race heritage.

The anniversary reminded me of when Mom met Haley. He was the featured speaker at the Oral History Association’s 7th Annual Oral History Colloquium, which was held November 10-12, 1972, in Austin, Tex., at the Thompson Conference Center adjoining the LBJ Library.

Here is what Mom wrote in her Nov. 15, 1972, family letter*:


This was some four years before the August 17, 1976, publication of Haley’s book and the Jan. 23-30, 1977, airing of the 8-part mini-series on ABC, but Mom knew that Haley and his findings were special.

After the “Roots” mini-series aired, Mom retyped that entire section into her Feb. 2, 1977, family letter — there was no simple cut-paste operation back then, of course.

At the end, she added a variation of her favorite phrase: “Remember where you read it first?”  🙂

She then added three more paragraphs relating subsequent events and opinions:


I don’t recall if Mom ever wrote about the several controversies that occurred regarding the originality and genealogical accuracy of “Roots”, which are described in Haley’s Wikipedia page.  If I find any other Haley-related stories in other family letters, I’ll add them to this post.

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* Throughout her life, Mom wrote hundreds of letters that gave comprehensive accounts of her — and our — life and experiences. She typed multiple carbon copies, mailing one to various relatives and, in time, children away at college or later. These “Family Letters,” as they came to be called, were a wonderful and cherished method of communication and history. Mom saved one copy of each. Some 495 letters now occupy five thick binders in my office. They are a treasure-trove record of our life. Over time, I hope to digitize them all.