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To Benjamin Elijah Mays

Author: 
King, Martin Luther, Jr.
Date: 
May 4, 1960
Genre: 
Letter
Topic: 
Martin Luther King, Jr. - Arrests

Details

In this letter to Morehouse College's president, King encloses a $100 payment of his $300 pledge to the institution. Citing exorbitant legal fees, stemming from his February indictment for perjury, King reconsiders his plan to donate a portion of the royalties from Stride Toward Freedom to the college: “I felt that it would be wise for me to hold on to the book money until the case is over since it appears that I will have to spend more of my personal money.” King remains hopeful that “when the case is over I will still be able to give Morehouse a sizable contribution over and above my pledge.” Mays replied on 6 May.1

Dr. B. E. Mays, President
Morehouse College
Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Dr. Mays:

In going through my file of unanswered letters I found your letter of November 20, making an appeal for pledges for Morehouse College.2 I regret that an extremely crowded schedule made it impossible for me to get around to answering your letter before now. Enclosed is my check of one-hundred dollars which is the first payment on my pledge of $300.00 a year.

I think I mentioned to you once before that I plan to give all of the royalties accruing from my book to institutions and charitable causes.3 I already have several thousand dollars set aside in the bank for just that purpose. I had planned to give Morehouse two thousand of this on the last founders day observance, but as you know, the Alabama case broke just a few days before, and this disrupted my total program.4 Since the Alabama case developed, I have had to spend a great deal of unexpected money. I never felt that lawyers and accountants would charge such exhorbitant fees.5 Already we have had to spend almost ten thousand dollars in this case and it has not even gotten to the first court yet. In the light of this, I felt that it would be wise for me to hold on to the book money until the case is over since it appears that I will have to spend more of my personal money than I had expected.6 Although the defense committee is at work and doing a good job, I feel that it is both immoral and impractical to spend all of the money raised for my case when there is such a great need for funds for student defense, and the voter registration drive in the South. I hope, however, when the case is over I will still be able to give Morehouse a sizable contribution over and above my pledge of {three} hundred dollars a year.

With warm personal regards.

Very sincerely yours,
Martin L. King, Jr.

Enclosure: 1
MLK:mlb

1. In his reply, Mays enclosed a receipt for King's contribution and assured him “that I stand back of you in what you will be facing in the Montgomery trial and that means finances as well as good wishes.”

2. Mays, To Alumnus and Friend, 20 November 1959.

3. The previous month, King received over $3,000 in royalties from Stride (Dolores Gentile to King, 6 April 1960).

4. King was arrested at his Ebenezer office on 17 February, on charges of filing fraudulent tax returns in 1956 and 1958 (see King, Interview on Arrest following Indictment by Grand Jury of Montgomery County, 17 February 1960, pp. 370-372 in this volume).

5. King's legal team included Hubert Delany of New York, William R. Ming of Chicago, Arthur Shores of Birmingham, and Fred Gray and Solomon S. Seay, Jr., both of Montgomery. In an 22 April letter to Fred Gray, Hubert Delany outlined the legal team's financial agreement with King and the Committee to Defend Martin Luther King and the Struggle for Freedom in the South, which he reported was “a substantial reduction in the fees we would normally charge.” In a form letter to King's attorneys, A. Philip Randolph and Gardner Taylor, chairmen of the committee, set a $20,000 legal budget with the “understanding that the attorneys will administer the division of these funds amongst themselves” (Randolph and Taylor to Gentlemen, April-May 1960).

6. In her 1969 memoir, Coretta King recalled that her husband conceded that he did not “have the money to fight such a charge in the courts,” but he vowed that he would not “under any circumstances use any funds from the Movement for such a purpose” (My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr., p. 185; see also King, Statement on Perjury Acquittal, 28 May 1960, p. 462 in this volume).

Source: 

MLKP-MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University, Boston, Mass.