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To Ralph W. Riley

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Author: King, Martin Luther, Jr. (Dexter Avenue Baptist Church)

Date: October 19, 1954

Location: Montgomery, Ala.

Genre: Letter

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


King answers Riley’s inquiries about John Wesley Dobbs and invites Riley, a former pastor of Dexter, to give the sermon for Dexter’s anniversary.1 A week later, Riley would communicate his regret that owing to a previous engagement he could not preach the sermon in December.2

Dr. R. W. Riley, President
American Baptist Theological Seminary
Nashville 7, Tennessee

Dear Dr. Riley:

I am very sorry that I am somewhat tardy in answering your last letter, but it so happened that I was out of the city on its arrival. I did, however, get the certificate off to Detroit. Mr. Nesbitt did not have a record of the exact date that Mr. Dobbs was baptized, so I had to use one of the dates that you suggested. I am sure that the certificate has been received by now.

I have been intending to write you for the past two weeks to extend an invitation to you to preach for our Church Anniversary at the 11 o’clock service on the 2nd Sunday in December, 1954. We are seeking to make this a significant event and your presence as well as your message would add so much to that occasion. I hope that you will be able to accept this invitation. Please let me hear from you at your earliest convenience concerning this matter.

Our work here is going very well. We are getting real cooperation from the entire membership. I only hope that it will last.

With best wishes, I remain

Sincerely yours,
M. L. King, Jr.


1. For Riley’s request, see Riley to King, 29 September 1954, MLKP-MBU. Ralph Waldo Riley (1900–1959) received his A.B. from Morehouse College and his B.D. from Gammon Theological Seminary. He did graduate work at the University of Pittsburgh and Atlanta University. He served as secretary of the Benefit Board of the National Baptist Convention from 1937 to 1939. He was pastor of Baptist churches in Florida and Georgia before becoming the seventeenth pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in the late 1930s, where he remained until 1944. Riley was then president of the American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville for twelve years before accepting his final pastorate in 1956 at Hopewell Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey.

2. See Ralph W. Riley to King, 25 October 1954, MLKP-MBU.

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

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