It was a Republican, Martin Luther King Sr., who made John Kennedy president of the United States — for JFK’s saving Daddy King’s son, Martin Jr., from lynching.
This harrowing and little known drama of terror and courage, confirmed for me by Martin Luther King III, changed American politics — and America — forever.
On October 19, 1960, Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested in Georgia for driving with an Alabama driver’s license and sentenced to six months hard labor. No one expected King to survive the sentence — he’d be lynched at the outset.
His father, Martin King Sr., had one desperate chance to save his son. Daddy King had endorsed Richard Nixon, a family friend, for the presidency. Nixon could count on King, a Republican like many African-Americans, who chose the party of Lincoln over the racist Democratic party of Jim Crow segregation.
A desperate King called Vice-President Nixon — who refused to answer. But MLK’s wife, Coretta, had a single hope. She called a friend, pacifist activist Harris (later Senator) Wofford who called Bobby Kennedy.
RFK didn’t hesitate, calling from a pay phone on Long Island to his brother, demanding John save MLK Jr.
It was just three weeks before the presidential election, a race too close to call. This was a crisis. Three Southern governors warned the Kennedys that any help for Dr. King and JFK would lose three Deep South states.
John Kennedy, who’d just won the Pulitzer Prize for Profiles in Courage, knew this was his test. He gave Bobby the go-ahead to save King.
Bobby called Atlanta and told the judge he’d post King’s bond — though the judge had never offered bond. But this Democratic judge …more