King congratulates Rogers, his former assistant at Dexter, on his graduation from seminary. King cautions Rogers on his interest in the vacant pulpit at Dexter, explaining that he might have difficulty gaining respect from the congregation: "It is one of the most difficult things in the world for a group of people who once taught you to accept you as their spiritual shepherd." 1
Rev. T. Y. Rogers
Dear T. Y.:
First, I must apologize for being so tardy in replying to your letter of April 14th.2 Actually, my involvement in the present student movement, a court case in Montgomery, Alabama, and other pressing responsibilities have kept me out of the office almost consistently for two months. Therefore, I am just getting to your letter.
I assume that the financial problems that you were confronting at the time that your letter was written are now taken care of, at least I hope so. If not, you can write me again and I will see what I can do to help. I am getting ready to leave the country to attend the Baptist World's Alliance in the next three or four days, and I will not return until after the middle of July. Please feel free to contact me after that time.3
Congratulations upon your graduation from Crozer Seminary. I am very happy to know of all of your accomplishments. You are doing a marvelous job, and we all expect a great future for you. Do keep in touch with me and let me know what you are doing.4
Incidentally, Dexter has not called a pastor yet. They are in the process of hearing men now. You may have noticed a bit of hesitation in my mind when you spoke to me concerning the possibility of your coming to Dexter. I can assure you that the hesitation was never a result of my feeling that you were not adequate for the job, but I did have then, and I still have the feeling that because you went to school in the community many of the members would not give you the respect and support that you would need as a pastor. In a sense Dexter is a peculiar church, and it is one of the most difficult things in the world for a group of people who once taught you to accept you as their spiritual shepherd. So I did not want to see you start your ministry in a situation that could so easily disillusion you. Of course, if Dexter had the proper vision at this point they would realize that they could not find a better person in the country than you. You would have the opportunity of growing with them, and they with you. But sometimes cold blooded intellectuals cannot see all of the facts.
Again, let me bid you Godspeed in all of your endeavors, and I hope things will continue to work in your behalf. Give my best regards to La Pelzia, and give your beautiful little daughter a big kiss for me.5
Very sincerely yours,
Martin L. King, Jr.
Signed in the absence of Rev. King.
1. King wrote letters of recommendation for Rogers, calling him "a good and dynamic preacher" (King to Phinehas Smith, 29 September 1960; see also King to Horace G. Robson, May 1960).
2. In Rogers's 14 April letter he asked King for a loan to cover some final school bills.
3. King attended the Tenth Annual Baptist World Alliance in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 24 June until 3 July.
4. Rogers served as pastor of Galilee Baptist Church in Philadelphia for four years (1960–1964) before returning to the South as the pastor of First African Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in order to work more closely with SCLC. At the time of his death in 1970, he was SCLC's director of affiliates.
5. King refers to Rogers's wife and their daughter, Gina.
MLKP-MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Boston University, Boston, Mass.