Illinois state representative Simon began corresponding with King after participating in the MIA’s Second Annual Institute on Nonviolence and Social Change in December.1 With this letter Simon enclosed a copy of his 27 January letter advising Senator Paul Douglas to meet with King. Simon told Douglas, “I was tremendously impressed by Martin Luther King and I was happy to note he shares my high opinion of you.” 2 King responded to Simon on 7 February.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
First of all let me say it was a real pleasure getting acquainted with you after having been an admirer of yours from a long distance.
I am enclosing an article from The Christian Century which may interest you if you haven’t seen it already.3
I had the chance to speak briefly with Chester Bowles the other evening and your name figured prominently in our discussion. I understand that Bowles will refer to you in a forthcoming article in the Saturday Evening Post. 4
I am also enclosing a copy of the letter I am sending to Paul Douglas. I hope that our paths will cross much more often in the future.
1. Paul Martin Simon (1928-), born in Eugene, Oregon, attended the University of Oregon and Dana College, where he studied journalism. He left college in 1948 to become the publisher and editor of the Troy Tribune in Troy, Illinois. Simon won a seat in the Illinois state legislature in 1954, serving until 1962. A Democrat, Simon later served Illinois as state senator (1962-1970) and lieutenant governor (1968-1972). Simon went on to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate.
1. On 17 April 1958, Douglas invited King’s “thoughtful testimony” on behalf of a civil rights bill he had introduced in the Senate; King did not testify, and the bill later died in committee. Simon also tried to arrange a meeting between King and Paul Butler, national chairman of the Democratic Party (Simon to King, 6 March 1958).
3. Simon refers to his article, “Montgomery Looks Forward,” which summarized the December Institute in Montgomery (Christian Century 75 [22 January 1958]: 104-105).
4. In this article the former ambassador to India compared the methods of the Montgomery bus boycott with Gandhi’s use of civil disobedience in South Africa and India, and praised the adaptation of Gandhian principles to the American racial situation (Bowles, “What Negroes Can Learn from Gandhi,” Saturday Evening Post, 1 March 1958, pp. 19-21, 87, 89).