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To W. H. Jernagin

King, Martin Luther, Jr.(Dexter Avenue Baptist Church)
August 1, 1956
Martin Luther King, Jr. - Career in Ministry
Montgomery Bus Boycott


King responds to Jernagin's 21 July request that King consider becoming executive secretary of the National Fraternal Council of Churches, an alliance of fourteen African-American denominations with eight million members. On 3 July King had received an award for “distinguished Christian service” at the organization’s annual meeting in Birmingham. Jernagin, chair of the group's executive committee, thought that King should “not only serve the people in Montgomery, Alabama but serve the entire Negro church in America and bring about a victory for the race such as we have never had.” 1

Dr. W. H. Jernagin, President
National Sunday School and B.T.U. Congress
1728 Webster Street, N.W.
Washington 11, D.C.

Dear Dr. Jernagin:

On returning to Montgomery, I found your letter and I discovered that you had made several calls seeking to contact me. I am very sorry that I missed you. I had to postpone our initial engagement because I received a subpoena to appear in court to serve as a witness for the State in an injunction against the NAACP.2 At the last minute I was notified that the case was postponed until the following week. So I came on to New York any way. After thinking over the proposition which you have suggested concerning the executive secretaryship for the Fraternal Council of Churches, I have concluded that maybe I have an obligation to stay in Montgomery for a while longer. I feel that the confidence that the people have in me and their readiness to follow my leadership have thrust upon me a responsibility that I must follow through with. If I would leave at this time I am sure that it would not be understandable to a large segment of the group. However, I would be more than happy to discuss it with you, as well as some of the bishops. As you continue to think through it, feel free to contact me, and I am open to suggestions and conferences at any time.

I hope everything goes well with you and Mrs. Jernagin. I am sure that you are having a most profitable vacation. I will look forward to hearing from you soon and to seeing you in the National Baptist Convention in Denver.

Sincerely yours,
M. L. King, Jr.,


1.William H. Jernagin (1869-1958), born in Mashulaville, Mississippi, graduated from Jackson State College. After serving churches in his home state and Oklahoma, he became pastor of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., in 1912. In addition to his work with the National Fraternal Council of Churches, he served as president of the National Baptist Sunday School and Baptist Training Union Congress from 1926 until his death.

2.See John Patterson to King, 12 July 1956, pp. 319-320 in this volume


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