What Would Martin Say?

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Overview

When the Reverned Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, the world lost one of the greatest moral authorities of the twentieth century. We would all benefit from hearing Martin's voice, if only he were alive today....

If anyone would have insight into Martin's thoughts and opinions, it would be Clarence B. Jones, King's personal lawyer and one of his closest principal advisers and confidants. Removing the mythic distance of forty years' time to reveal the ...

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What Would Martin Say?

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Overview

When the Reverned Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, the world lost one of the greatest moral authorities of the twentieth century. We would all benefit from hearing Martin's voice, if only he were alive today....

If anyone would have insight into Martin's thoughts and opinions, it would be Clarence B. Jones, King's personal lawyer and one of his closest principal advisers and confidants. Removing the mythic distance of forty years' time to reveal the flesh-and-blood man he knew as his friend, Jones ponders what the outspoken civil rights leader would say about the serious issues that bedevil contemporary America: Islamic terrorism and the war in Iraq, reparations for slavery, anti-Semitism, affirmative action, illegal immigration, and the state of African American leadership.

"What would Martin say about the pressing issues of our time is a bold question to ask. Clarence Jones is one of the few who possess the moral authority neccessary to even attempt to such a task, one that [Jones] more than accomplishes with a compelling candor and uncommon grace and dignity." —Travis Smiley

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

"I was privy to his innermost thoughts," Jones, draft speech writer and adviser to Martin Luther King Jr., assures us in this bold yet presumptuous endeavor to reveal "what [King] would have to say, and what he would advise, on issues of the day." Generally speaking, King, as channeled by Jones, would be dismayed and-astonishingly-fiercely conservative. According to Jones, King would now oppose affirmative action ("its time and usefulness have come and gone") and illegal immigration ("the moral brazenness of those without the legal right to be here who demand that Americans treat them as though they were decorated soldiers or fighters for constitutional rights"). A complicated King emerges from Jones's portrait-not the familiar pacifist but a likely supporter of the Iraq War who in Jones's words might believe that "military action is an unavoidable option that even those who are otherwise committed to non-violence must be prepared to consider now in order to save many more lives later." With characteristic pugnacity, Jones excoriates black leaders who "pursue policies that pimp the best interests of black people" and accuses the FBI of masterminding King's assassination. The notion of acting as a medium for the departed King is provocative, but Jones is a smooth manager of feisty prose. What's here is a sort of political parlor game and, like a good parlor game, it will make for lively conversation. (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Daily Journal/Messenger (Seneca
“One hot potato of a book; thoughtful, controversial, insightful and inciting…but be warned that it’s not one to breeze through in a night. What Would Martin Say? requires thought, reflection and time. Read it and ponder the words of a great man who knew the Great Man.”
Juan Williams
“Surprising; Provocative and Historically significant! Clarence Jones knew the inside of Dr. King’s life as his lawyer and confidante.”
Tavis Smiley
“Compelling candor and an uncommon grace and dignity.”
Cornel West
“Clarence Jones is a living legend. His life and witness exemplify the vision of his close friend, Martin Luther King, Jr. and his unsettling words to us must be heard!”
Donna Brazile
“With fervor, honesty and eloquence, Clarence Jones faithfully captures the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the modern day, reminding us that his ideals, his vision and dream are far from realized but that his timeless beliefs can still lead us there.”
Roger Ailes
“Keeping the memory of MLK alive is one of the most important missions of our history. Because of his personal relationship and knowledge of the subject, Clarence Jones has written a book every American should read.”
Daily Journal/Messenger (Seneca)
"One hot potato of a book; thoughtful, controversial, insightful and inciting…but be warned that it’s not one to breeze through in a night. What Would Martin Say? requires thought, reflection and time. Read it and ponder the words of a great man who knew the Great Man."
Ebony
“Clarence B. Jones, Dr. Martin Luther King’s personal attorney and adviser, provides insight into what the slain civil rights leader would say about the state of today’s political affairs. Jones offers provocative views of how King would view racial and religious conflict, illegal immigration, and war.”
Ebony
“Clarence B. Jones, Dr. Martin Luther King’s personal attorney and adviser, provides insight into what the slain civil rights leader would say about the state of today’s political affairs. Jones offers provocative views of how King would view racial and religious conflict, illegal immigration, and war.”
Newsweek
“What Would Martin Say? never flinches …A service to King’s legacy, by lifting the layers of oversimplifying myth and legend to reveal a deeper, more complex man.”
Booklist
“Jones seeks to ‘translate King for a modern audience.’ A gimmick? Absolutely not. The lengthy responses Jones fashions, each one based on his intimate knowledge of King’s vision, are well thought out and great material for discussion. ”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780641984181
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/1/2008
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Clarence B. Jones was recruited by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1960 and worked with him as his principal adviser. The father of five children, Jones lives in Palo Alto, California, where is a scholar in residence at the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University.

Joel Engel is the author or coauthor of more than fifteen books. He is a former journalist for such publications as the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. He lives in Southern California.

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Read an Excerpt

What Would Martin Say?

Chapter One

Martin Luther King was coming to meet me. At my home. It would be social, but not a social visit. Like Uncle Sam in those recruiting posters, Dr. King wanted to enlist me in his war. But I had already become a conscientious objector.

It was a long-ago time and yet never long enough. It was a time when not the few but the many believed—as surely as they believed that gravity makes things fall—in the racial superiority of the white race. It was a time when more than a few agreed that because man is made in God's image and God isn't black, the Negro is therefore not a man. It was a time when far more than many insisted that the law needed to separate blacks from whites not only today but tomorrow and forever.

It was, in short, a time when the time was ripe for one of those most rare movements in history, a movement whose goals and aims were as righteous as they were unambiguously good.

It also happened to be the time when I was happily living in a scenic white suburb of Los Angeles in a pleasant ranch-style contemporary with my attractive white wife and, less than a year out of law school, working as an entertainment lawyer at a small Beverly Hills firm where I hoped someday to make partner and enjoy all the rights and privileges thereto pertaining—i.e., a lavish salary and everything it could buy. Including the freedom to never again worry about how much I had left in my pocket.

I'd had those plans (born of that worry) since that day as a boy when I learned that my beloved parents—live-in domestics—would have to send their only child away to be raised byothers. And now that I had a wife and baby daughter with a second child on the way, I felt a moral obligation to be there for them, both physically and financially. It was, perhaps, a sense of duty best appreciated by those who'd been raised by folks other than their parents. The Catholic nuns in that boarding school run by the Order of the Sacred Heart in Cornwells Heights, Pennsylvania, taught me well, and my success reflected that. But I would always have a hole where my parents hadn't been, and a hole wasn't what I wanted for my children.

That said, unless you were a first-degree bigot, it was impossible not to admire the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And impossible not to notice that he was the right man at the right time. His mission to achieve full civil rights for American Negroes had made him one of the most famous and, even in those days, celebrated men in the United States. He'd actually been on the cover of Time after leading the year-long Montgomery bus boycott, begun by Rosa Parks, which eventually led to the Supreme Court's ruling that outlawed segregation on municipal buses. So it was a big deal that he was coming to my house and coming to see me personally and coming to appeal to my conscience and coming to persuade me that I was not, at present, putting my talents to their highest and best use.

But big deal or not, God himself couldn't have persuaded this Negro to give up the future, even for something bigger than himself.

Anyway, that's what I insisted to my wife as she set out a few refreshments before our guest arrived. Hearing the words, she stopped for a moment and shook her head. Which got my attention. In the five years and counting of our marriage, she'd never looked at me so pitiably, as though she'd married the wrong man.

The phone had rung several days before—Hubert Delaney, calling from New York. I'd gotten to know Hubert, a prominent Negro lawyer and former judge, during my college days at Columbia, when I was a member of the school's NAACP Youth Council. He'd generously written a letter of recommendation to Boston University Law School on my behalf when I decided to pursue the law, and I have no doubt that whatever he said helped get me in. But not for that reason alone did I owe him.

Even so, when he told me he thought I'd be a good and valuable addition to the legal team he was heading in Alabama to defend Dr. King against preposterous charges of tax evasion—that is, underreporting his income in 1956 and 1958 through the appropriation of donations to the Montgomery bus boycott—I told him no. And not because I didn't want to spend several weeks in Montgomery (though I didn't), acting essentially as a law clerk for several eminent attorneys from the North, writing motions and memoranda, researching case law, and being a legal gofer. No, I didn't want to do that because, well, I didn't want to do that. I wanted to stay where I was and continue doing what I was doing—making money and building my future.

With disappointment in his voice, Hubert thanked me and that was that—or so I thought until the next day, when Dr. King's personal secretary from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference called to say that the man was going to be in Los Angeles over the weekend, delivering the keynote address at the World Affairs Council dinner Saturday night, and would it be possible for him to stop by the house for a brief chat on Friday night after dinner. Just to say hello.

I laughed, marveling that the judge hadn't given up. What was I supposed to say? No?

And so came the knock on the door.

There stood a man of medium stature, wearing a dark suit, white shirt, skinny tie, and fedora.

"How do you do?" he said. "I'm Martin."

Next to him was a man similarly dressed, the Reverend Bernard Lee, King's aide-de-camp.

We shook hands and I invited them in. King first noticed how the house had been built around an existing tree that would've dominated the living room if not for the hundreds of potted plants, courtesy of my wife's green thumb. Then he glanced up at the place where a portion of the roof had been retracted for the night—a nice architectural touch that paid off whenever the stars were alive in the sky, as they were then—and nodded in a way that said I'd done well for myself.

What Would Martin Say?. Copyright © by Clarence Jones. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Table of Contents


Introduction
1 What Did Martin Say About Me? 1
2 What Would Martin Say About Today's Black Leadership? 29
3 What Would Martin Say About Affirmative Action? 69
4 What Would Martin Say About Illegal Immigration? 101
5 What Would Martin Say About Anti-Semitism? 125
6 What Would Martin Say About Islamic Terrorism and the War in Iraq? 143
7 What Would Martin Say About Who Killed Him? 179 Acknowledgments 213 Source Notes 219
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First Chapter

What Would Martin Say?

Chapter One

Martin Luther King was coming to meet me. At my home. It would be social, but not a social visit. Like Uncle Sam in those recruiting posters, Dr. King wanted to enlist me in his war. But I had already become a conscientious objector.

It was a long-ago time and yet never long enough. It was a time when not the few but the many believed—as surely as they believed that gravity makes things fall—in the racial superiority of the white race. It was a time when more than a few agreed that because man is made in God's image and God isn't black, the Negro is therefore not a man. It was a time when far more than many insisted that the law needed to separate blacks from whites not only today but tomorrow and forever.

It was, in short, a time when the time was ripe for one of those most rare movements in history, a movement whose goals and aims were as righteous as they were unambiguously good.

It also happened to be the time when I was happily living in a scenic white suburb of Los Angeles in a pleasant ranch-style contemporary with my attractive white wife and, less than a year out of law school, working as an entertainment lawyer at a small Beverly Hills firm where I hoped someday to make partner and enjoy all the rights and privileges thereto pertaining—i.e., a lavish salary and everything it could buy. Including the freedom to never again worry about how much I had left in my pocket.

I'd had those plans (born of that worry) since that day as a boy when I learned that my beloved parents—live-in domestics—would have to send their only child away to be raised byothers. And now that I had a wife and baby daughter with a second child on the way, I felt a moral obligation to be there for them, both physically and financially. It was, perhaps, a sense of duty best appreciated by those who'd been raised by folks other than their parents. The Catholic nuns in that boarding school run by the Order of the Sacred Heart in Cornwells Heights, Pennsylvania, taught me well, and my success reflected that. But I would always have a hole where my parents hadn't been, and a hole wasn't what I wanted for my children.

That said, unless you were a first-degree bigot, it was impossible not to admire the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And impossible not to notice that he was the right man at the right time. His mission to achieve full civil rights for American Negroes had made him one of the most famous and, even in those days, celebrated men in the United States. He'd actually been on the cover of Time after leading the year-long Montgomery bus boycott, begun by Rosa Parks, which eventually led to the Supreme Court's ruling that outlawed segregation on municipal buses. So it was a big deal that he was coming to my house and coming to see me personally and coming to appeal to my conscience and coming to persuade me that I was not, at present, putting my talents to their highest and best use.

But big deal or not, God himself couldn't have persuaded this Negro to give up the future, even for something bigger than himself.

Anyway, that's what I insisted to my wife as she set out a few refreshments before our guest arrived. Hearing the words, she stopped for a moment and shook her head. Which got my attention. In the five years and counting of our marriage, she'd never looked at me so pitiably, as though she'd married the wrong man.

The phone had rung several days before—Hubert Delaney, calling from New York. I'd gotten to know Hubert, a prominent Negro lawyer and former judge, during my college days at Columbia, when I was a member of the school's NAACP Youth Council. He'd generously written a letter of recommendation to Boston University Law School on my behalf when I decided to pursue the law, and I have no doubt that whatever he said helped get me in. But not for that reason alone did I owe him.

Even so, when he told me he thought I'd be a good and valuable addition to the legal team he was heading in Alabama to defend Dr. King against preposterous charges of tax evasion—that is, underreporting his income in 1956 and 1958 through the appropriation of donations to the Montgomery bus boycott—I told him no. And not because I didn't want to spend several weeks in Montgomery (though I didn't), acting essentially as a law clerk for several eminent attorneys from the North, writing motions and memoranda, researching case law, and being a legal gofer. No, I didn't want to do that because, well, I didn't want to do that. I wanted to stay where I was and continue doing what I was doing—making money and building my future.

With disappointment in his voice, Hubert thanked me and that was that—or so I thought until the next day, when Dr. King's personal secretary from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference called to say that the man was going to be in Los Angeles over the weekend, delivering the keynote address at the World Affairs Council dinner Saturday night, and would it be possible for him to stop by the house for a brief chat on Friday night after dinner. Just to say hello.

I laughed, marveling that the judge hadn't given up. What was I supposed to say? No?

And so came the knock on the door.

There stood a man of medium stature, wearing a dark suit, white shirt, skinny tie, and fedora.

"How do you do?" he said. "I'm Martin."

Next to him was a man similarly dressed, the Reverend Bernard Lee, King's aide-de-camp.

We shook hands and I invited them in. King first noticed how the house had been built around an existing tree that would've dominated the living room if not for the hundreds of potted plants, courtesy of my wife's green thumb. Then he glanced up at the place where a portion of the roof had been retracted for the night—a nice architectural touch that paid off whenever the stars were alive in the sky, as they were then—and nodded in a way that said I'd done well for myself.

What Would Martin Say?. Copyright © by Clarence Jones. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Read More Show Less

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