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From George D. Kelsey

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Author: Kelsey, George D.

Date: June 22, 1957

Location: Madison, N.J.

Genre: Letter

Topic: Martin Luther King, Jr. - Career in Ministry

Martin Luther King, Jr. - Political and Social Views


One of King's Morehouse professors congratulates him on recent honors and accomplishments.1 King acknowledged Kelsey's letter on 8 July.

Dr. M. L. King
Dexter Avenue Baptist Church
Montgomery, Alabama

Dear M. L.,

Congratulations on all the honors which you have won recently, and during the last year. You have done wonderful things for all the people. Many White Christians recognize that you have served them, but in the future this fact will be commonly understood.

Leola and I were delighted to see and hear you in Philadelphia. We wish we could have had a long talk.2

We followed the Ted Poston series on you in the New York Post. Of course, I am deeply pleased to learn that I have had any influence on your life.3

The final question which Poston raises, “where do you go from here?” is, as you indicated, not a matter of primary concern to you. It cannot be for two reasons. 1) A man of your training and qualifications is always in demand. There is always a need for him to meet. And the call for his services is continuously forthcoming. 2) A man of your consecration is not concerned with his own honors or with any dramatic and spectacular accomplishments which may be associated with his name. He is concerned rather with ministering to and meeting the needs of men in Christ’s name. This is why you have wrought great things. To you it does not matter whether there are “rabbits to be pulled out of the hat.” But it does matter that the least person in your midst needs a cup of cool water. To him you have directed your ministry.4

We shall continue to pray for your success and well being, and shall send our meager financial help when that is needed.

With best wishes and kindest personal regards, I am.

Cordially yours,
George D. Kelsey


1. George D. Kelsey (1910-1996).

2. Kelsey and his wife, Leola, may have heard King speak in Philadelphia on 19 May at Zion Baptist Church or at the 20 May annual forum of the National Conference on Social Welfare.

3. Poston’s six-part profile (8-12, 14 April 1957) chronicled King’s life from childhood to his emergence as a national leader. In the third installment, King said of Kelsey and Benjamin Mays: “I could see in their lives the ideal of what I wanted a real minister to be” (Poston, “Fighting Pastor: Martin Luther King,” New York Post, 10 April 1957).

4. In Poston’s final article, King reflected on achieving fame at such a young age: “Frankly, I’m worried to death. . . . People will be expecting me to pull rabbits out of the hat for the rest of my life. If I don’t or there are no rabbits to be pulled, then they’ll say I’m no good” (“Where Does He Go From Here?” New York Post, 14 April 1957). In his 8 July reply to Kelsey, King commented: “I am deeply grateful to you for your very encouraging words and helpful suggestions. The statements you made on the question, ‘Where do you go from here’ were helpful indeed. They are very vital in keeping a sense of direction.”

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

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