Pauling’s Eulogy for Martin Luther King, Jr.

As we wrote at this time last year, Linus Pauling and Martin Luther King, Jr. had occasion to come into sporadic contact as they pursued their own avenues toward a more peaceful and just world.  The two exchanged a few letters and supported similar causes, including a 1965 appeal to stop the war in Vietnam.  The eldest Pauling child, Linus Jr., even lent his medical expertise to Freedom Marchers walking from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in March 1965.

Today we honor Dr. King’s memory by publishing, for the first time, a short manuscript that Pauling wrote and delivered on April 9, 1968, five days after King’s assassination.

Having arrived in Amherst, Massachusetts the day before to deliver a series of lectures for the University of Massachusetts’ Distinguished Visitors Program, Pauling likely had little time to collect his thoughts for what, one presumes, was a hastily arranged memorial to King’s life and legacy.

The resulting manuscript then, is unvarnished Pauling and much is revealed in its three pages.  Though Linus and Ava Helen – moving into their late-sixties and weary from the many battles fought over their twenty-plus years of peace work – were reducing their personae as activists, it is clear that their thinking was continuing to evolve well-beyond signature issues like weapons proliferation and radioactive fallout.  And so it is that we find Linus Pauling sharpening the radical edge of his rhetoric and sharing King’s concern with economic issues, as he remembers a man whom he greatly admired.

Page 1.

Dr. Martin Luther King was opposed to violence, to suppression, to the exploitation of man by man.  He devoted his life to justice and morality, to achieving true brotherhood of all men, to abolishing the evils of unrestrained selfishness and hate.

It is not enough for us to mourn him and to show our respect for him.

It is our duty to work to achieve the goals that he pointed out.

Military might, police might, the power of the assassin are being

Page 2.

used by our country to protect an evil economic and social system, based on inequality and injustice.

40 million Americans are miserably poor, with income less than one-fifth the average for their affluent fellow citizens.  This group, the miserably poor, includes half of our black people, but only one-sixth of our white people.

The world as a whole is worse.  2/3 of the people of the world live on 10% of the world’s income, $100 per year per person.

Page 3.

In South America, Southeast Asia, Greece, as well as at home, we have been using our great wealth and power to oppose progress, to oppose reform.

Now, let us pledge ourselves to follow the path of righteousness, the path shown to us by Dr. King.


One Response

  1. […] The petition sent by Pauling to Pire is the most notable of interactions between the two men. It was titled an Appeal by Recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize, and called for an end to the war in Vietnam. The petition does not apportion blame to any of the particular combatants in the war, but is rather a plea to universally end violence and restore guidelines set forth by the Geneva Agreement. It was signed by a number of influential men with an interest in peace, including Father Pire, Linus Pauling and Martin Luther King, Jr. […]

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