After 49 Years And $350 Fine, Veteran James Phillips Returned Overdue Book To University

Too bad Mr. Bookman, the library cop, wasn’t on the case. If he was, perhaps an overdue book checked out in 1967 would’ve been returned long before now.

The University of Dayton in Ohio recently received an interesting, apologetic handwritten note from a Minnesota man named James Phillips, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

The note came accompanied with a book the library didn’t even know was overdue: History of the Crusades.

“Please accept my apologies for the absence of the enclosed History of the Crusades. I apparently checked it out when I was a freshman student and somehow it got misplaced all these years.”

He hadn’t returned the overdue volume in almost a half-century not because he was engrossed with the subject matter, but because he had no idea he had it.

Back in 1967, James was a freshman. According to the university, he checked out the dull-sounding tome either for a history class or general interest. But before it was returned, he left school. To be more specific, James had joined the U.S. Marines at the height of the Vietnam War.

Evidently, the young Marine left school in a hurry, because his dorm was still full of his belongings. The task of collecting them fell to some unknown person. Whomever that was sent his things — among them the overdue book — to his parent’s house.

The boxes of James’ belongings from his college days remained there until his parents’ deaths. His father died in 1994 and his mother in 2002. At that point, his things were mistakenly delivered to his younger brother.

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Thankfully, his younger brother eventually realized that among the items he’d gotten from his parents’ house was a box or two that didn’t belong to him.

“[My brother] eventually realized the error, and to my great surprise I received a box of goods from him,” Phillips explained.

WRGT reported that Phillips found the tome hiding inside the box of belongings from his brief time at the University of Dayton. Talk about a blast from the past.

“Lo and behold,” he exclaimed, “among those items in the box was the History of the Crusades.”

And even though 49 years had passed since he checked it out, Phillips chose to do the right thing and made sure it was returned to its rightful owner.

He popped it into an envelope, wrote the apology, and mailed the package to the university, which was very surprised to see it.

Interestingly, the library had no idea History of the Crusades was even missing. After all, technology has changed quite dramatically while the overdue book was hiding inside a box in Minnesota.

Overdue book returned, much to unversity's surprise
Photo By wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock

The overdue book was simply a vestige of a long-gone era.

“It was interesting to see a book that had no evidence of our modern technology returned,” said outreach librarian Katy Kelly. “It still has the old borrowing card stamped with dates back to 1950. It was very thoughtful of him… not everyone would choose to return it after so long.”

And when you consider that James could’ve faced a stiff penalty after he returned the overdue book, the gesture is even more thoughtful.

In 1967, students were only allowed to check out a book for two weeks. For every day it was overdue, they were fined 2 cents. After 49 years, that fine calculates to $350.

The university has decided to waive the punishment, and History of the Crusades will go back on the shelf with a new-fangled bar code that will ensure it never goes missing again. Phillips is glad that the matter has been settled.

“I feel much relieved knowing now that it has finally made its way home to where it belongs.”

[Image via www.BillionPhotos.com/Shutterstock]