On 3 January Hassler, editor of the Fellowship of Reconciliation's monthly magazine, asked King to send a statement acknowledging the role of FOR and its field secretary Glenn Smiley in the success of the bus boycott. He promised King and Robert Graetz, who received a similar letter, that their statements would not be used for “general publicity” but only in a fundraising report to FOR members.1 Hassler acknowledged King's declination on 1 February.2
Mr. Alfred Hassler, Editor
21 Audubon Avenue
New York 32, New York
Dear Mr. Hassler:
Thanks for your very kind letter of January 3. Absence from the city and the accumulation of a flood of mail have delayed my reply.
Ordinarily, I would be more than happy to comply with your request. I can assure you that the whole Montgomery Improvement Association is deeply indebted to Glenn Smiley for his vital contributions to our protest movement. Moreover, I am personally grateful to Glenn for the real help that he has given me. His contribution in our overall struggle has been of inestimable value. However, there are some difficulties which I confront in making any public statement concerning the work of the Fellowship of Reconciliation in our struggle. As you know, many individuals and organizations have been very helpful in our struggle. Many have worked directly with us here in Montgomery and others have worked indirectly in organizations over the nation. Two or three of these organizations have already made requests similiar to yours. At that time I didn’t feel that it would be wise for me to make any public statement since so many organizations were coming to our aid. Now I am sure that you can see the problem which I am confronting. If I release any statement to the FOR concerning the helpfulness of Glenn Smiley, persons of organizations which made similiar requests will naturally accept it as an affront as well as a sign of ingratitude. I might say that some of the groups that have already made requests are pacificist groups which means that some of their members would be receiving FOR literature. It would be almost impossible to keep such a statement from getting into the hands of persons who have made such requests. In other words, if we do it for one we will be faced with the problem of having to do it for all. If these difficulties did not stand before me I would be more than happy to make such a statement. Maybe at some later date it will be possible to make such a statement without having future repercussions.
I would be very happy to hear from you concerning your reaction to the problem I am confronting. Let me assure you once more that Glenn has been most helpful. I hope that the position that I am taking at this point will not be construed as ingratitude in any sense, but as a sincere attempt to deal with an obvious problem.
Very sincerely yours,
M. L. King, Jr.,
1. Graetz replied on 15 May 1957, applauding FOR and Smiley for their “important and lasting contribution to our movement in Montgomery.”
2. Hassler indicated that he appreciated King’s position: “We have all felt it has been a privilege to have participated to the degree that we have been able in your movement, and our only concern was to let our members know that this participation had been of some significance. Under the circumstances, we shall have to hope that they will know this to be the case through other media.”
MLKP-MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Boston University, Boston, Mass.