Yesterday a few of our noble citizens celebrated Richard Nixon birthday. While Watergate eternally stamped a big old W on his political forehead, most Americans fail to recognize Nixon's moral achievements, particularly in the area of civil rights. In August of 1957 Martin Luther King sent this little known letter of gratitude to then Vice President Richard Nixon:
Mr. Richard Nixon, Vice-president The United States of America Washington,D.C.
Dear Mr. Nixon:
30 A% 1957
For several weeks I have been intending to write you, but an extremely busy schedule has stood in my way. First I want to express my sincere appreciation to you for so graciously receiving me and my colleague Rev. Abernathy in your office during the month of June. I will long remember the rich fellowship which we shared together and the fruitful discussion that we had.
Since our meeting together many significant things have happened in the life of our nation, particularly in the realm of civil rights.Just this morning our local paper revealed that the compromised Civil Rights Bill was finally passed by the Senate. After considering all angles I have come to the conclusion that the pres- ent bill is far better than no bill at all. This limited bill still provides districtjudges with power to maintain order and to insist upon compliance with their orders. This could be a powerful incentive in changes in behaviour and attitude. I real- ize that many sincere leaders, both Negro and white, feel that no bill i s better than the present bill, and that since we have waited this long for civil rights legislation we can afford to wait an additional year to get stronger legislation in this area. While I sympathize with this point of view, I feel that civil rights legislation is ur- gent now, and the present limited bill will go a long way to insure it. So it is my hope that the President will not veto the bill.4
It is also my firm conviction that the full effect of the Civil Rights Bill will de- pend in large degree upon the program of a sustained mass movement on the part of Negroes. History has demonstrated that inadequate legislation supported by mass action can accomplish more than adequate legislation which remains un- enforced for the lack of a determined mass movement. This is why I am initiating in the south a crusade for citizenship in which we will seek to get at least two million Negroes registered in the south for the 1960 elections. With the enthusiasm that we hope to kindle and the aid of the Civil Rights Bill this should not be difficult.
Let me say before closing how deeply grateful all people of goodwill are to you for your assiduous labor and dauntless courage in seeking to make the Civil Rights Bill a reality. This has impressed people all across the country, both Negro and white. This is certainly an expression of your devotion to the highest man- dates of the moral law. It is also an expression of your political wisdom. More and more the Negro vote is becoming a decisive factor in national politics. The Negro vote is the balance of power in so many important big states that one almost has to have the Negro vote to win a presidential election.
Again, let me thank you for your hospitality and generosity.You have my prayers and best wishes for the great work that you are doing in making our democracy a living reality.With persons like you occupying such important positions in our na- tion I am sure that we will soon emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man’s inhumanity to man to the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and
justice for all men.
Please extend my best regards to Mrs. [Pat] Nixon and our other friends
around the White House.
Martin Luther King,Jr., Minister
P.S.At your earliest convenience I hope you will see your way clear to speak to the President concerning the conference that we discussed. It was a real plea- sure talking with you by telephone the other day
I find it fascinating indeed that liberals crown fallen leaders such as Clinton and Ted Kennedy, while Republicans have banished their fallen to the achieves of shame. No one dare mention Richard Nixon lest he lose face. A telling thought indeed.