FBI urged to release “all the facts” regarding MLK Jr by Southern Christian Leadership Conference president.
1978 (May 29 - Jun 3)
On May 29, Joseph Lowery, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) urged the FBI to release "all the facts" in the Bureau's attempt to discredit Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., during the 1960s. At the same time, while refusing "to comment specifically on the alleged FBI excesses," King's widow, Coretta Scott King, said “J. Edgar Hoover's monstrous acts refuse to leave the stage. He is dead, but his despicable legacy lives on." Lowery's comments came in response to a recent report that "a prominent Black leader worked with the FBI in its undercover campaign to replace King as head of the civil rights movement." He said the new report was "another in a long line of FBI attempts to smear Black leadership. ... This is a terrible shadow to be holding over the head of Black leadership. ... I find it incredible [that] any prominent Black leader would cooperate to destroy the movement." Lowery added that civil rights leaders had always "had reason to believe that FBI informants were working within the movement." On June 3, the Atlanta Daily World published an article that reported "claims that Roy Wilkins, former head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was the Black collaborator who sided with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in an attempt to discredit the late Dr. M. L. King, Jr.” Lowery gave a "blistering" response to these new allegations. Excerpts from Lowery's statement follows: "Black folks in particular and the nation in general must see through this vicious effort to shift a portion of the blame for attacks on Dr. King to the Black community. ..." "We (SCLC) in no way condone nor place any credence in attempts to vilify Roy Wilkins, whose distinguished career in civil rights speaks for itself. We condemn the continued attempts of the FBI to discredit Black leaders and impede the civil rights movement. ..." "The fact that Wilkins had conversations with the FBI in no way indicates that he collaborated with them to discredit Dr. King and the movement. The failure of the FBI to substantiate the fantastic claim that a Black leader collaborated with them is evidence that the FBI's intent is to discredit, divide, and destroy.. [Referring to an FBI memo which described the so-called collaborator as 'young and ambitious,' and since the collaboration was alleged to have taken place in 1964] I hardly consider a man in his mid-60s [as Wilkins was in 1964) as 'young and ambitious'." "We're all aware ... that in the mid60's Mr. Hoover had a fierce determination to discredit Dr. King and thereby weaken the civil rights movement by establishing the Communist influence or by any other means." JUNE 3, 1978 Hurley Honored. Several hundred people gathered at a hotel in Atlanta, Georgia, to pay tribute to Ruby Hurley, southeastern regional director of the NAACP, on the occasion of her retirement after more than three decades of service to the nation's "oldest, largest, and most respected” civil rights organization. Hurley, a native of Washington, D.C., joined the NAACP after heading a committee "that sought to establish singer Marian Anderson's right to sing" at Constitution Hall in the capital in 1939. Because of white opposition, the famed opera star had to perform her concert at the Lincoln Memorial instead. In 1943, Hurley joined the NAACP as national youth director. In her eight years as youth director, the NAACP's membership tripled to 92 college chapters and 178 youth councils, enrolling 25,000 members. Following her success in the youth division, Hurley was sent into the Deep South to coordinate membership campaigns and reactivate dormant branches. Out of these activities, the southeastern regional office, embracing the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, was established. It became the largest region of the entire NAACP. Hurley began her work in the South in 1951, the same year that a Christmas night bomb killed Harry T. Moore, the NAACP's Florida coordinator, and his wife, Harriett. Hate and violence, then, became her constant companions for the next twenty-seven years. In an interview with the Atlanta Constitution on May 30, 1978, Hurley, who said she "never found time to sit down and worry about the obscene telephone calls, threats against her life, and 'never say die pro-segregation politicians," recalled her life's work and commented on present and future trends. For example, Hurley recalled her attempts to gather information about the murder of Black teenager Emmett Till in 1955 by posing as a field hand at several Mississippi plantations: "I must have been crazy. Young people talk about what they would have done if they were living during those times. ... But they wouldn't have done anything. They couldn't have done any more than their elders. ..." "I started worrying about Black young people when I heard them saying they're Black and they're proud. But just being Black is no reason to be proud.... My feeling is that if you're going to be proud, you ought to have some knowledge about the history of the Black race to build a basis to be proud. You won't have to go bragging that you're Black and proud...." "As long as there are Black people and white people, there will be conflicts...." "There is still a lot of work to be done, and I'm too old to do it. I can't keep up with the pace and maintain sanity anymore. I'll leave that to someone else."