Letter in support of Civil Rights Bill after the assassination of MLK Jr., Gloucester 1968

A resident of Gloucester wrote this letter to Congressman Bates in 1968. It comments on the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which had occurred the previous day.

This document represents one of several materials taken from the papers of Representative William Henry Bates at Salem State College.  Bates was Essex County’s Representative in the United States House of Representativesfrom 1950-1969.  The letters reflect Essex County residents’ opinions on the Fair Housing portion of proposed Civil Rights legislation.  The Fair Housing provisions of various Civil Rights bills prohibited racial discrimination in the sale or rental of all homes.  Many Essex County residents saw this provision as a violation of their property rights.  Homeowners that lived in two- or three-family homes were particularly outraged.  The letters span from President Johnson’s first proposal of Fair Housing legislation in 1966 until 1968 when the bill was finally passed.  The tone of the letters becomes much more sympathetic after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968.  

Click here for a PDF of the transcription:

Gloucester, Massachusetts

April 5, 1968

Congressman William H. Bates
6th District, Massachusetts
Rayburn Office Building
Washington, D. C.

Dear Congressman Bates:

I’m afraid it had to take the brutal murder of Dr. Martin Luther King to make me realize how remiss I have been in urging you to press for the passing of Civil Rights legislation pending in Congress as well as gun control legislation. Please number my wife and myself as constituents favoring both. Also, I wish to thank you for all your efforts in obtaining information regarding Cape Ann and the Sentinel missile system.

Yours sincerely,


Letter to Congressman Bates, April 5, 1968. William Henry Bates Papers, 1941-1973. North Shore Political Archives 98-02, Folder: “Legislative Files-Judiciary-Civil Rights Act (1966) Box 3-4. Salem State College Archives.