While meeting on 22 February in Atlanta with King, his father, and other black leaders, attorney A. T. Walden telephoned two NAACP lawyers, Thurgood Marshall and Arthur Shores, who promised him that King would have the NAACP’s full legal support.1 Wilkins conveys a similar message in this telegram sent the same afternoon. In a statement released the next day, Wilkins derided the indictments as the actions of a “police state,” while Marshall promised that “we have agreed to use all of the resources of the NAACP” in defending the indicted leaders.2
rev m l king
309 south jackson montgomery ala
all our people over the nation and millions of friends stand with you and your courageous fellow citizens as you answer the indictment of the grand jury. we will continue to offer legal advice upon your request. please do not hesitate to call upon us.
1. King, Stride Toward Freedom, pp. 145-146. Arthur Davis Shores (1904-), a native of Birmingham, received his B.A. (1927) from Talladega College and his LL.B. (1935) from Lasalle Extension University. He joined the NAACP legal staff in 1944 and devoted his legal career to civil rights law in Alabama, including Autherine Lucy’s desegregation case against the University of Alabama.
2. NAACP press release, “NAACP Support Pledged to Bus Protest Victims,” 23 February. When the bus boycott began, Roy Wilkins noted privately that the NAACP “will not officially enter the [Rosa Parks] case or use its legal staff on any other basis than the abolition of segregated seating on the city buses. . . . We could not enter an Alabama case asking merely for more polite segregation” (Roy Wilkins to W. C. Patton, 27 December 1955).
MLKP-MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University, Boston, Mass.