Skip to content Skip to navigation

To O. Clay Maxwell, Sr.

King, Martin Luther, Jr. (Montgomery Improvement Association)
Martin Luther King, Jr. - Career in Ministry


On 31 July King informed Maxwell, pastor of Harlem's Mount Olivet Baptist Church, that he would be in New York on 11 August and would be available to preach the following day. In his sermon, delivered to a congregation of 2,500, King mentioned the bus boycott only in passing, Instead he decried the “tragic secularism” and “moral relativism” into which American society had lapsed. Too many people, King asserted, believed that “it's all right to exploit others as long as you’re dignified about it.’’ We must ‘rediscover” two principles, he stated: that "all reality hinges on moral foundations” and that “all reality has spiritual control.” 1In this letter King thanks Maxwell and his wife, Lillie Bell Maxwell, and says he looks forward to seeing them again at the September meeting of the National Baptist Convention.2

Dr. O. Clay Maxwell, Minister
Mount Olivet Baptist Church
114 West 120th Street
New York 27, New York

Dear Dr. Maxwell:

There is a word in Catholic Theology called supererogation, which means in substance “more than justice requires. I can assure you that the kind hospitality that you and Mrs. Maxwell rendered to me on my visit to your church was a work of supererogation.

Words can never adequately express my appreciation to you. To have been in this great church was an experience that I will long cherish. The fellowship was rich indeed. The financial contribution was unsurpassable. All of these things added together result in making my visit to Mount Olivet one of the truly great experiences of my life. You will always be remembered for the great contribution that you have made to the christian Ministry and your big-hearted brotherly attitude.

Please give my best wishes to Mrs. Maxwell. I will look forward to seeing both of you in Denver.

Most sincerely,
M. L. King, Jr.,


1. Quoted in “‘Slickness’ Cited as Modern Evil,” New York Times, 13 August 1956. This sermon is probably “Rediscovering Lost Values” (see the version in Papers 2:248-256).

2. O. Clay Maxwell, Sr. (1885-1973), was pastor of Mount Olivet Baptist Church for forty years. He helped found the Protestant Council of the City of New York in 1943, and in 1957 he became the first African American to receive the group’s Distinguished Service Award. He also served as president of the National Baptist Sunday School and Baptist Training Union Congress. Maxwell headed the committee that organized King’s 17 May sermon at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine (see “The Death of Evil upon the Seashore,” pp. 256-262 in this volume).


MLKP-MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Boston University, Boston, Mass.