A dealer of rare historic documents is selling a letter from Martin Luther King Jr. to a Philadelphia police officer who was assigned to protect him, showing gratitude for the officer's concerns and minimizing his own worries for his personal safety.
The King letter sale begins today. The Raab Collection in Philadelphia has set the price at $10,500 for the one-page typewritten letter, which was passed down through the police sergeant's family until descendants who wish to remain anonymous decided to put it up for sale.
“My guess is the police office expressed some sentiment to Dr. King, there was likely a personal interaction because King singled him out and wrote him individually,” said Nathan Raab of the Raab Collection.
In the May 21, 1965 note to Sgt. James Adair, a white Philadelphia police officer on security detail for a Law Day visit on May 1 to the University of Pennsylvania, King conveyed his appreciation for ``the time and effort which you spent in providing both protection and traffic accompaniment for myself and the members of my party.''
“While I hardly feel this necessary most of the time,'' the civil rights leader wrote, ``it is both comforting and humbling to know that there are persons who are so concerned about my welfare.''
Less than three years later, on April 4, 1968, King was assassinated in Memphis.
The note is on letterhead stationery of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the civil rights organization led by King, and is signed by him. The correspondence is in beautiful condition, according to the Raab Collection.
“The letter shows how Dr. King viewed a constant barrage of threats against him. The letter shows something was on his mind. This police officer touched King. He wasn’t just doing his job,” said Raab.
The demand for King memorabilia is high and sells for $2,000 and up, according to Raab. “People across the demographic spectrum have interest in the personality and character of King and civil rights.”