After Martin Luther King, Jr., became pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, he hired Lillie Hunter as church secretary. King cherished Hunter’s loyalty to him. “When you have to work with people like me, you have to have a lot of patience,” King jokingly said of Hunter at a reception held in his honor upon his relocation to Atlanta, Georgia, in January 1960 (Papers 5:355).
While working at Dexter, Hunter was also a student at Alabama State College. Nearly two months into the Montgomery bus boycott, Hunter was in a car with King when he was arrested for an alleged traffic violation as part of the “get tough” campaign by city officials. In February 1960, a month after King left Montgomery for Atlanta to be closer to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) headquarters, Hunter submitted her letter of resignation to Dexter and moved to Atlanta. She worked as the bookkeeper for SCLC and secretary to Ralph Abernathy until she left the organization in 1970. As a loyal employee and cherished friend, Hunter traveled with King’s party to Norway when he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.