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From W. H. Jernagin

Jernagin, William Henry
August 27, 1956
Washington, D.C.
Martin Luther King, Jr. - Career in Ministry


Jernagin continues his effort to convince King to become executive secretary of the National Fraternal Council of Churches, inviting him to discuss the matter at the upcoming meeting of the National Baptist Convention. King did not accept the position.

Reverend M. L. King, Jr.
309 S. Jackson Street
Montgomery, Alabama

My dear Reverend King:

Your letter of August I received while I was in Atlantic City, and contents duly noted. I regret very much that after thinking it through you feel that your leadership directly in the immediate community makes it necessary that you stay there. Of course, I had in mind for you to continue the leadership in that matter until it was through. As Executive Secretary of the National Fraternal Council of Churches you would be travelling over the country making contacts and could stop at Montgomery, Alabama any time you feel it is necessary, especially for the next year.

Do not think for a moment that I had in mind for you to discontinue your leadership in that movement, but that you would have a stronger force behind you in the final accomplishment of that task. Because the National Fraternal Council of Churches with 14 denominations and over 8 million members would be behind you in that task, as well as others which may occur.

We have a great fight on our hands in the South yet, and it takes a man like you with the spirit of God and non-violence to awaken the Negro community of America through the churches. Because two or three southern states already have made attempts to abolish the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People due to objection of its activities in their states; but, of course, there will always be a Negro church and a Negro preacher through whom you can work and keep informed of what they can do.1 And by you and the N.A.A.C.P. working together, our cause will still have a defender.

Because of your fine work in Montgomery, you would not only attract the attention of the Negro church but you would also attract many white friends to help you put over the program of our race. And I do not know a better man in America who could do that as well as you. In fact this is your day and, also, this is your opportunity to become one of the leaders, not only of America, but of the world, in social adjustments.

I shall expect to see you in Denver. I will be stopping at the Park Lane Hotel. As soon as possible, we will arrange to have you speak with some of the Bishops of the various churches on this matter. Of course Bishop Green has written me that in case you did not accept, he had another man to recommend.2 But I know that because of the fine spirit you exhibit in Montgomery that we do not have you equal at this time. Think over it, and I will see you in Denver.

Very truly yours,
W. H. Jernagin


1. Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas had obtained state court injunctions against NAACP activities.

2. Sherman Lawrence Greene (1886-?), an Atlanta resident and AME bishop for Georgia from 1951 to 1962, served as president of the National Fraternal Council of Churches. He was among the group of Atlanta leaders that King, Sr., assembled in February 1956 in an effort to persuade his son not to return to Montgomery.


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