On 20 September 1958 Izola Ware Curry, a mentally disturbed African American woman, stabbed King in a Harlem department store as he autographed copies of Stride Toward Freedom, his memoir of the Montgomery bus protest.1 At Harlem Hospital a team of physicians led by Maynard, the hospital’s director of surgery, successfully removed a letter opener lodged perilously close to King’s heart. King spent most of October recuperating in New York before returning to a reduced workload in Montgomery.
In the following letter King thanks Maynard for his medical assistance and requests a check-up for 16 January.2 After the examination, Maynard informed King in a 23 January letter that he had fully recovered.
Dr. Aubrey de L. Maynard
312 Manhattan Avenue
New York 39, New York
Dear Dr. Maynard:
I will be in New York for a few hours on Friday, January 16. I would appreciate it very much if I could talk with you for a few minutes and also have a physical check up. Please let me know by return mail whether this is a possibility and also the best time of day for you.
I have been intending to write you ever since I left New York to express my sincere appreciation to you for doing so much to preserve my life. I have no doubt that it was your skilled surgery and your genuine concern that brought me from a very low ebb to a healthy body again. Your thoughtful and considerate concern will remain dear to me so long as the cords of memory shall lengthen.
I hope you have received our Christmas gift by now. It is just a little expression of our appreciation to you for all that you did to ease the burden in a very difficult period in our lives.3
You have my prayers and best wishes for a continued success in the great work that you are doing, and for a new year packed with meaningful fulfillment.
Very sincerely yours,
Martin L. King, Jr.
1. Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story (New York Harper & Brothers, 1958). For a full discussion of the stabbing, see Introduction, The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr., vol. 4: Symbol of the Movement, January 1957-December 1958, ed. Clayborne Carson, Susan Carson, Adrienne Clay, Virginia Shadron, Kieran Taylor (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2000), pp. 34-35.
2. King wrote thank-you letters to the other physicians who had treated him in New York (King to Alphonzo Jordan, Emil Naclerio, John W. V. Cordice, all dated 6 January 1959; King to Helene D. Mayer, 7 January 1959; and King to Bernard B. Nadell, 8 January 1959).
3. King had sent Maynard a fountain pen (Aubre de L. Maynard, Surgeons to the Poor: The Harlem Hospital Story [New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 19781, p. 191).
MLKP, MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University, Boston, Mass.