JUNE 11, 1959
NEW YORK—I was saddened to read of the notice served on the Reverend B. McNeill who was removed from his Southern Presbyterian pastoral post in Columbus, Georgia, on the order of his church's governing body. It is interesting to realize that the Reverend Mr. McNeill was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and that it was only after he grew up that he made the discovery that a belief in segregation, merely because of a difference of race or of color, is a dangerous philosophy.
I don't think his dismissal will do the Reverend Mr. McNeill himself any harm, for I am sure there are many churches that would like to affirm a belief in free speech for their ministers, and I will not be surprised to find that such churches exist in the South.
The harm is done to the congregation that upholds such a decision and which must therefore bear the blame for not understanding what disservice they do to their country in the overall struggle of democracy vs. communism.
All of us know from the records that the men of the South know how to die for their country, and the women have known how to support their men. But it is a much more difficult thing to live for your country when it means a change in the mores that you have been brought up in.
The knowledge that you can help to safeguard your country in the struggle that lies below the surface but which is going on all the time between the Communist powers of the world and the powers of the West only by accepting a change in mores is often perhaps not well understood.
There is an interesting little booklet just published by the Boy Scouts of America, called "Scouting with Handicapped Boys." I urge you to write and get it.
You will be astonished what even severely handicapped youngsters can do, whether it is overcoming the damage of cerebral palsy or some other crippling handicap. I think it will warm your heart to know that a great organization, which does much for our boys all over the country, still has had time to think of the handicapped ones as well.
I was reminded the other day that in speaking of the Southern Conference Educational Fund I had mentioned the fact that it "is probably the only organization left in the South where people of different colors can work together."
The reminder came immediately that the Southern Regional Council and its state and district affiliates also work, regardless of different colors, for equality among men. And I was told that the Montgomery Council on Human Relations, which is a local branch of the Southern Regional Council, played an important part in the bus boycott there and that a white lady accepted an invitation from the Federal government to serve on the Alabama Advisory Committee on civil rights. Also pointed out to me was the fact that Negroes and whites alike who fight for civil rights are being singled out and made to suffer for their views.
I am very glad to know how many people of courage the South has, but I am not surprised, for this is a traditional quality of the South.