King thanks baseball executive Branch Rickey, who in an earlier letter had praised Stride Toward Freedom as a “Christ-like document from beginning to end.”1 Rickey replied to King on 18 June: “I am down-right proud to have a corresponding acquaintanceship with you.”
Mr. [Branch?] Rickey
Silver Springs Farm
Old Mill Road
Dear Mr. Rickey:
On returning to the country, I found your very kind letter of January 28, on my desk. Words are inadequate for me to express my appreciation to you for your encouraging words concerning my book, Stride Toward Freedom. This book is simply my humble attempt to bring Christian principles to bear on the difficult problem of racial injustice which confronts our nation. I am happy to know that you found it helpful.
May I say in passing that I have long had a tremendous admiration for you. Your dedicated spirit, your humanitarian concern, and your unswerving devotion to the principles of freedom and justice for all men will remain an inspiration to generations yet unborn. I do hope that in the not-too-distant future we will get a chance to meet personally and talk over some of the issues that are close to our hearts.2
With best wishes and warm personal regards, I am
Martin L. King, Jr.
1. Rickey to King, 28 January 1959. Wesley Branch Rickey (1881-1965), born in Stockdale, Ohio, graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University (1904) and the University of Michigan Law School (1911). Beginning in 1905, Rickey worked for several professional baseball teams in a variety of capacities, among them player, scout, and general manager. As general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Rickey signed Jackie Robinson to one of the organization’s minor-league teams in 1945. Two years later Robinson was promoted to the Dodgers, thus integrating major league baseball.
2. King and Rickey probably met at a 19 June 1960 “Freedom Jubilee” in Pittsburgh, where both men received plaques for their contributions “to the cause of world-wide freedom” (Central Baptist Church, Program, “Tri-State’s Freedom Jubilee,” 19 June 1960).
MLKP-MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Boston University, Boston, Mass.