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To Ray A. Burchfield

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Author: King, Martin Luther, Jr.

Date: November 5, 1960

Location: Atlanta, Ga.?

Genre: Letter

Topic: Martin Luther King, Jr. - Political and Social Views


King rejects an Indiana minister's charge that he is being used by the Democratic Party "as a tool for their selfish designs." 1 Burchfield had voiced his opinion that King ought "to go the press and tell them that as an American Negro you will not be used by any political party for its benefit." 2 King dismisses Burchfield's concerns about King, Sr.'s recent statements in support of Kennedy: "I am sure you will agree with me that my father, being sixty-two years old, is capable of making his own decisions and should have the freedom to vote any way that he chooses." 3

Rev. Ray A. Burchfield
Fifth Street Methodist Church

Dear Rev. Burchfield:

I am about to leave town and I hasten to drop this note to you before leaving.

I am very sorry that you have been misinformed concerning my political views at this time. I have not in the past and I will not in the next few days endorse Senator Kennedy or Vice President Nixon for the position of President of the United States. It has been my policy all along to follow a non-partisan course.

I am sure you will agree with me that my father, being sixty-two years old, is capable of making his own decisions and should have the freedom to vote any way that he chooses. His position does not in any way need to be construed as my position.

If this letter appears rather blunt, please forgive me, but I am sure that you know by now that a person in my position is constantly misquoted by the press and misrepresented. I think the enclosed statement, which I made just three days ago, will clarify my position.4

I must confess that I am very disappointed with your whole letter, and particularly the implication that I am seeking to strengthen the Southern Christian Leadership Conference financially with some of the Kennedy millions. In fact, I am so disappointed with this implication that I will not bother to answer it.

If, in this time, my integrity as a person and the integrity of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference have not been established, I am convinced that all of my words of explanation would be null and void. We certainly appreciate whatever support that you have given to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and other humanitarian organizations.

Concerning your resignation from the groups that you mentioned, I can only say, without seeking to offend you in any way, that if such a misunderstanding causes you to resign, you may not have been as committed to their purposes and goals as you thought you were.5

I am afraid I must close. I wish I had more time to discuss this matter with you. Again I must ask you to forgive me if I have written too boldly, but believe me, it is humbly sincere and with Christian love.

Very sincerely yours,
Martin Luther King, Jr.


1. Burchfield to King, 28 October 1960.

2. Burchfield to King, 1 November 1960; see also Burchfield to King, 3 November 1960. Ray A. Burchfield (1916-1981), born in Toronto, Ohio, received a B.A. (1948) from Marion College and a B.D. (1952) from the Christian Theological Seminary. Burchfield was a member of the board of directors of the Anderson, Indiana, Urban League from 1958 until 1962 and served as chairman of the Committee on Scholarships and Student Aid.

3. At a mass meeting welcoming his son home from prison, King, Sr. reportedly told an audience: "I've got all my votes, and I've got a suitcase, and I'm going to take them up there and dump them in his lap" (Margaret Shannon and Douglas Kiker, "Out on Bond, King to Name Choice," Atlanta Journal, 28 October 1960).

4. King may refer to his Statement on Presidential Endorsement, 1 November 1960, pp. 537-540 in this volume.

5. In his 1 November letter to King, Burchfield threatened to resign from his positions with the Urban League if King did not "make a statement and give the American public some satisfaction other than the partisan bias you have given to Senator Kennedy."

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

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