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To Dwight E. Loder

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Author: King, Martin Luther, Jr.

Date: August 5, 1958

Location: Montgomery, Ala.

Genre: Letter

Topic: Martin Luther King, Jr. - Political and Social Views


King declines an offer of a faculty position from the president of Garrett Biblical Institute, a Methodist seminary on the grounds of Northwestern University. On 11 August Loder replied that King’s rejection of the offer was “one of the most severe disappointments I have had as the President of Garrett.”1 Loder stated that if King ever changed his mind he wanted “a kind of ‘First Auction’ on such a change.”

Dr. Dwight Loder,
President Garrett Biblical Institute
Evanston, Illinois

Dear Dr. Loder:

For several months now I have prayerfully and seriously thought through your offer to serve on the faculty of Garrett Biblical Institute. As I said to you before there has been something of a pendulum swinging in my mind between an affirmative answer on the one hand and a negative answer on the other. There have been moments that I found myself saying, “this is just the thing for me.” I came out of the seminary with a strong desire to enter the teaching profession and even though I have fallen in love with the pastorate I am sure that this desire still lingers somewhere in my subconscious mind.

I know, however, that it would be very unfair for me to keep you waiting while my mind goes through this constant alteration, so I feel a moral obligation to share with you the decision that I have presently made. As you know, I am deeply entrenched in the rising tide of racial conflict here in the deep South. My congregation and members of the community are also involved. And they look to me to guide them spiritually and otherwise, as they move with uncertainty through this maze of racial tension.

I have a deep sense of responsibility at this point and feel, for the next few years at least, that my place is here in the deep South doing all in my power to alleviate the tensions that exist between Negro and white citizens. I have started on this challenging venture of love and non-violence, and I am all too aware of the fact that this philosophy has not been spread enough throughout the deep South. I am hoping by the Grace of God to be able to carry this approach far beyond the bounds of Montgomery, and this will take both time and hard work.

In the light of all of these considerations I reluctantly decline your gracious offer. I say reluctantly because I am not absolutely convinced that I am doing the right thing. But there comes a time when a man must decide and venture out on the basis of that decision.

I cannot begin to express my appreciation to you for considering me for such a significant position. This offer certainly left me with a deep sense of humility and gratitude.

Please give my best regards to Mrs. [Mildred] Loder. I certainly hope our paths will cross again in the not-too-distant future. Since meeting you and your charming wife I have come to admire you greatly. I hope this is the beginning of a friendship that will last over the years. Coretta sends her warm regards to both of you.

I ask the prayers of all the folk at Garrett in the search of the true Christian solution to this sometimes heart breaking problem of race.

Sincerely yours,
[signed] Martin
Martin L. King, Jr.


1. Upon learning of King’s interest in the position at Garrett, Harold A. Bosley, a Garrett professor and Methodist minister, expressed his interest in having King join the faculty and, “if it would not seem like proselyting (and I warn you I’m not above it),” become a member of the Methodist Church (Bosley to King, 14 March 1958). Dwight Ellsworth Loder (1914-), born in Waverly, Nebraska, received a B.A. (1936) from the University of Nebraska and an S.T.B. (1939) from Boston University. Loder was ordained a minister in the Methodist Church in 1939. He became president of Garrett Biblical Institute in 1955, serving until his election as bishop in 1964.

Source: Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers (Series I-IV), Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Inc., Atlanta, Ga.

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