In a 16 January letter, Roosevelt invited King to a reception honoring Aubrey Williams, executive director of the National Youth Administration during Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration. Roosevelt wrote that Williams, as president of the Southern Conference Educational Fund (SCEF), “has been one of the outstanding and gallant leaders among white Southerners who have, at every personal risk, dedicated themselves to the ending of segregation and discrimination.” Though King declines Roosevelt’s invitation, this reply was read at the gathering.1On 26 March Williams, a fellow Montgomery resident, thanked King for his “gracious letter to Mrs. Roosevelt” and invited King to his home: Why don’t you Mrs. King and the children come out and see us? Don’t lets let this become a oneway street.”
Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt
211 East 62nd Street
New York 21, New York
Dear Mrs. Roosevelt: On returning to the office, after being out for several weeks I found your letter of January 16. I was more than happy to know that you will be giving a reception in honor of Aubrey Williams on Wednesday, February 26, in New York City. I was deeply honored to receive an invitation to attend this reception. Unfortunately, however, my calendar reveals that I have a long standing commitment in California at that time.2 In the light of this it will be impossible for me to accept your gracious invitation. Please know that I regret this very deeply. I can assure you that I am deeply in accord with this reception in honor of Aubrey Williams. I feel that he is a great personality, and his work as President of the Southern Conference Educational Fund is very helpful and very much needed in this period of transition. He is a personal friend of mine, and I have assured him that he has my wholehearted support.
I have admired you and your work for a long, long time. I hope it will be possible for me to meet you personally in the not too distant future.
Very sincerely yours,
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dictated, but not personally signed by Dr. King.
1. At the reception Roosevelt lauded Williams’s anti-discrimination work and urged the ninety people in attendance to “support these organizations and these people who are doing the work that we in the North are not able to do.” Alabama activists E. D. Nixon and C. G. Gomillion also spoke at the event, which raised $13,000 for SCEF (“Mrs. Roosevelt Assists SCEF,” Southern Patriot, April 1958, pp.1, 4).
2. On 25 February King began a three-day visit to the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, sponsored by the University YMCA.