MAY 20, 1955
NEW YORK—I was distressed to read in the newspapers Thursday morning of the death of a really great American woman, Mary McLeod Bethune.
Dr. Bethune started life under conditions which must have made her education seem almost impossible, but both she and her parents had a great desire for her to gain knowledge and they seized on every opportunity. And the opportunities came, as they so often do, when people are ready to use them.
The newspapers were full of stories of how she led her remarkable life. Beginning with a dollar and a half she built a Negro college in Florida. She fought for the rights of her people but never with resentment or bitterness, and she taught both her own people and her white fellow Americans many a valuable lesson.
I always liked the story of how once a patronizing Pullman car conductor, asking her for her ticket, said: "Auntie, give me your ticket." She let him repeat it twice. Then, looking up sweetly, she said: "Which of my sister's sons are you?" This was a way of turning the tables on a gentleman, which was far more effective than any amount of anger would have been.
She had a deep religious faith and religion was not academic with her. It was both a weapon and a shield. She has told me very simply how time after time she has prayed for things, never for herself, but she always believed that if they were good things the Lord would hear her prayer. And there must have been many, many times when people were moved to answer her needs just because of this faith. She helped herself and the Lord helped her.
I knew Dr. Bethune best, of course, in the years when she worked for the National Youth Administration and she did good and courageous work for the young people of her race in a difficult period. But I have kept in touch with her all through the years and I will miss her very much, for I valued her wisdom and her goodness.
I would like to be at her funeral but I doubt if that will be possible. I have many commitments that would mean disappointment to various causes, which I think Dr. Bethune would be the first to feel should come before one's personal desires. Nevertheless, I will cherish the spirit she lived by and try to promote the causes that she believed in, in loving memory of a very wonderful life.
I must say a word about an extraordinary rumor that apparently appeared in the New York Mirror and which has caused us a great deal of extra work! From some source apparently considered reliable the newspaper heard that I was in a North Shore hospital. Why I should go to a North Shore hospital heaven only knows, but many friends and even my family have been trying to find out about this sudden "hospital" visit!
As I have been going about my usual daily tasks—on Monday and Tuesday I was in Canada, and am now back in New York—the rumor seems to have had no foundation in fact. As far as I know, I am entirely well. But, of course, someone may know more about this than I do!
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