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Benjamin Elijah Mays to Charles E. Batten

Mays, Benjamin E. (Benjamin Elijah) (Morehouse College)
February 28, 1948
Atlanta, Ga.
Martin Luther King, Jr. - Education


Benjamin E. Mays, president of Morehouse,1 is restrained in his assessment of King but nevertheless recommends King to Crozer, along with another student whose name the depository has deleted from the document for reasons of privacy. In his autobiography, Mays indicates a relationship with King closer than that suggested in this letter, mentioning “a real friendship which was strengthened by visits in his home and by fairly frequent chats on the campus and in my office. Many times, during his four years at Morehouse, he would linger after my Tuesday morning address to discuss some point I had made—usually with approval, but sometimes questioning or disagreeing.” Responding to King’s later description of him as a “spiritual mentor,” Mays remarked that he had not been aware of the extent of his influence on King as a student. After King completed his doctorate, Mays offered him a faculty position at Morehouse College, and during the 1960s he convinced King to teach part-time at his institution.2

Mr. Charles E. Batten
Crozer Theological Seminary
Chester, Pennsylvania

Dear Mr. Batten:

I want to endorse the applications for both Martin L. King, Jr. and [name deleted]. I have no reservations in recommending these two men. Both of them should graduate from Morehouse College in June. They are men of good integrity; they adjust well, and I believe, that they would do a good job at Crozer.

You will see from their records that they are not brilliant students, but they both have good minds. I believe they have academic averages around B – , certainly between C and B. I am of the opinion that they both can do substantial B work and with good competition, they may do even better. I hope you will see your way clear to accept them.

Sincerely yours,
[signed as below]
Benjamin E. Mays


1. Benjamin Elijah Mays (1894–1984) earned his A.B. in 1920 from Bates College and his M.A. in 1925 and Ph.D. in 1935 from the University of Chicago. After teaching at Morehouse College from 1921 to 1924, Mays served on the faculty of South Carolina State College. In 1934, he became dean of the School of Religion at Howard University in Washington, D.C. In 1940, Mays was appointed president of Morehouse, where he served for more than thirty years. He was the author of The Negro’s God (1938), Seeking to Be Christian in Race Relations (1946), A Gospel for the Social Awakening (1950), Born to Rebel (1971), and Lord, the People Have Driven Me On (1981).

2. Benjamin E. Mays, Born to Rebel (New York: Scribner, 1971), pp. 265, 266. King, Sr., states that Mays’s “inspirational messages at Morehouse chapel services” influenced King, Jr.’s decision to enter the ministry. See Martin Luther King, Sr., with Clayton Riley, Daddy King: An Autobiography (New York: William Morrow, 1980), p. 140.


CRO, NRCR, Crozer Theological Seminary Records, Colgate-Rochester Divinity School, Rochester, N.Y.