Miller, assistant editor of the New York-based FOR journal Fellowship, explains that his experiences as a soldier stationed in the South during World War II led him to express “heartfelt solidarity’’ with the bus boycott.1
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
309 So. Jackson Street
Dear Mr. King:
Since I first heard of the nonviolent protest for human rights which you and your courageous friends are leading, I have taken every opportunity in personal conversation and otherwise to make your inspiring activities better known. Somehow it did not occur to me until now, that I was indeed remiss in not communicating to you my heartfelt solidarity with your cause.
As a soldier stationed in Mississippi and North Carolina during World War II, I got my first awareness that our country was not wholly free. I was appalled by jim crow, and to the best of my adolescent ability refused to abide by the segregation laws. I made it a particular point to sit behind the color line on busses in New Orleans, Mobile and elsewhere, and though I was greeted by hostile looks from other white passengers, I was never ousted—perhaps because I was pretty big, or because it was wartime and I was obviously a Yankee. At any rate, these experiences I had when I was only eighteen and had gone out into the world for the first time made me respond instantly when I heard of the refusal of Negroes to be jimcrowed on the Montgomery buses.
I was impressed to learn that you are a year younger than I am. I have a pretty strong ego, and that knowledge really puts me in the shade. For me, friendship is something I am not able (though as a professing Christian I wish it) to give easily—and admiration comes even harder. But I want you to know, Mr. King, that I admire you deeply for your steadfast adherence to the nonviolent teachings of Our Lord in this time of crisis. If I can ever approximate in my life the sterling standard of conduct you have set, I shall really think my life had meaning and value. May God bless you and yours, and may my daily prayers for you soften the hard hearts of sinful men and bring victory for your cause not only in Montgomery but everywhere in the United States and in the world.
William Robert Miller
1. William Robert Miller (1927-1970), a native of Waterloo, New York, served in the U.S. Air Force from 1945 to 1947. He received his B.A. (1964) at the New School for Social Research. After several jobs as a journalist, he served as managing editor of Fellowship from 1956 to 1961. Among his writings are Nonviolence: A Christian Interpretation (1964) and Martin Luther King, Jr.: His Life, Martyrdom, and Meaning for the World (1968).
WRMP-GAMK, William Robert Miller Papers, 1955-1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Inc., Atlanta, Ga., Box 1, folder 1.