Wilkins thanks King for participating in the 13–14 January Leadership Conference on Civil Rights meeting with congressional leaders regarding pending civil rights legislation.1
Reverend Martin Luther King
Montgomery Improvement Association
530-C South Union Street
This is a somewhat delayed word of personal thanks for the enormous help you gave to the cause of civil rights legislation by your participation last month in our conferences with the congressional leadership I have wanted for some time to say this, but the heavy duties attendant upon the legislative battle have been overwhelming.
The delay has at least made it possible to witness the concrete evidence that our joint activity has had valuable results. At the time we journeyed to Washington everyone was painfully conscious of the low level of public awareness of, and involvement in, the civil rights legislative effort. Bulding upon our conferences and on the widespread stimulus provided thereby to our respective organizations, a highly encouraging response has been developed from the grass-roots. We are sparing no effort to see to it that this response continues to expand so that the pressure of public opinion will be manifest to all members of Congress until the job is properly done.
I hope to be able to inform you from time to time of the situation as it unfolds. The action this week by the House Rules Committee is only the first step in what we hope will be a major victory.2
Very sincerely yours,
1. Wilkins invited King to the meeting in an 18 December telegram, stating that the Washington meeting would be “confined to top leaders.” Civil rights proponents met with Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson (D-Texas), Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen (R-Ill.), House Speaker Sam Rayburn (D-Texas), House Majority Leader John McCormack (D-Mass.), and House Minority Leader Charles Halleck (R-Ind.). Other participants included officials from the National Urban League, Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, American Jewish Congress, National Council of Negro Women, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Japanese American Citizens League, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the United Auto Workers (UAW) (“Participants in civil rights legislative conference,” 13 January-14 January 1960, and “Rights Bloc Fails to End Deadlock,” New York Times, 15 January 1960).
2. A civil rights bill had languished in committee since August 1959. On 1 February 1960 the House Rules Committee voted to act on the pending legislation after 190 members of Congress petitioned to release the measure. The committee sent the civil rights legislation to the floor on 18 February with a seven-to-four vote. For more on the bill’s progress, see Jacob K. Javits to King, 21 April 1960, pp. 439-440 in this volume.