King had serious competition for ‘64 Nobel

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7 Powerful Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes "Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend." "Faith is taking the first step even when you can't see the whole staircase." "Darkness cannot drive out darkness: Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: Only love can do that." "We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience." "A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus." "


Published Dec. 9, 2014

When Martin Luther King Jr. was nominated for the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize he was one of 44 nominees, including 12 Americans:

Here is a list of the Americans:

— Frederick Burdick: Journalist nominated for the third time for his work and contribution to the bulletin "The Gist."

— Grenville Clark: Lawyer and author of the book "World Peace Through World Law."

Norman Cousins: Journalist at the "Saturday Review" who advocated for nuclear disarmament and world peace.

— Cyrus Eaton: Banker and outspoken critic of the United States' Cold War policy.

— Stephen Galotti: Philanthropist.

— Gordon Gilkey: Sculptor, who worked to recover art stolen by Nazis in World War II.

Jess Gorkin: Editor of Parade Magazine who was credited with trying to defuse international tensions by originating the idea of a Washington to Moscow "hot line."

— Lyndon B. Johnson: U.S. president who championed "The Great Society."

Woodland Kahler: Political pampheleteer.

— Clarence Streit: War correspondent.

— Norman Thomas: Socialist and pacifist.

After the list of 44 was established, King made it onto “short list” of finalists that included:

— Fenner Brockway: British antiwar activist and politician.

— Hermann Gmeiner: Philanthropist and the founder of SOS Children's Villages.

— Haile Selassie I: Emperor of Ethiopia.

— Josef L. Hromadka: Evangelical Lutheran theologian.

Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi: Shah of Iran.

— Paul-Henri Spaak: Belgian socialist politician and statesman.

Norman Thomas: Socialist and pacifist.

— William V.S. Tubman: President of Liberia.

Andrew Young recalls that the people in Martin Luther King Jr.’s inner circle were blindsided by news that King had won the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize.

“We were too busy working,” Young told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution this fall. “We thought he was nominated by a group out of New York. I thought Bayard Rustin did it.”

Now, after 50 years, the secret is out. According to documents that will be on display today for the first time in the United States, King was nominated by the American Friends Service Committee (the Quakers), and by eight members of the Swedish Parliament.

Also just coming to light is that he was among 44 people nominated that year and became one of the 13 finalists – including three Americans, four Europeans and three heads of state. Among those he beat out for the prize: Emperor Haile Selassie and Lyndon Johnson.

The records are part of a Nobel exhibition opening Wednesday at the King National Historic Site in Atlanta.

Unless leaked, Nobel documents are classified for 50 years, meaning that it has never been officially known who nominated King for the Nobel Peace Prize or who his competition was.

“It just says that he had heavy competition,” Young said Tuesday, after being briefed on the documents. “But you saw clearly where the world’s interest was. The interest was in nonviolence.”

The letter written by Colin W. Bell, executive director of the Friends Service Committee, said King’s significance went far beyond the issue of race, which he had become known for in America since he led the Montgomery Bus Boycotts in 1955.

“The board… was conscious of the baleful effect of racial tension upon the organization of peace. It felt that the work and witness of King, and the spirit in which he promoted ‘the dignity and worth of the human person,’ were influencing the attitudes of great numbers of men and women throughout the world,” Bell wrote. “Until the attitudes epitomized in the life of King were spread among individual men, the nations could not achieve real peace. In this respect, King’s influence went far beyond the issues of racial tension and pointed the way to basic new relationships between men everywhere.”

Young said the civil rights movement leaders had deep relationships with Quakers, some of whom served as educational or spiritual mentors.

He said the Friends Service Committee published several of the movement’s books and pamphlets and still believes that Rustin – whose grandmother, Julia Rustin, was a Quaker – played a big role in the nomination.

“He was very much involved with the Friends Service Committee and the Friends Service Committee were involved in Montgomery,” Young said.

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Victor Webb, a designer with Express Color, installs the “1964: Martin Luther King Jr.,” exhibit.

Victor Webb, a designer with Express Color, installs the “1964: Martin Luther King Jr.,” exhibit.

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Victor Webb, a designer with Express Color, installs the “1964: Martin Luther King Jr.,” exhibit.

The Swedish nominees praised King for his use of nonviolence in the American struggle for civil rights.

In his assessment of King, used to evaluate his candidacy, a senior lecturer for the Nobel Committee wrote: “Despite opposition and arrest, he retained a generosity of spirit toward those who disagreed with him. It has, without a doubt, been of incalculable significance of the nonviolent movement that a certain magnanimity in his personality allows him, while sharply attacking his opponents’ views, to understand them on a personal level.”

Judy Forte, superintendent of the King National Historic Site, watched workers assemble the museum’s new exhibit on Tuesday. “It is really amazing to know that the information the committee used to assess Dr. King is being declassified,” she said. “What he stood for was not just about race, but building relationships among mankind. To read those nomination letters, really gives you an appreciation of how the committee felt he was truly worthy of this award. I was honored to bring that treasure here to America.”

The full exhibit debuted at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, where since 1964, all the documents relating to the award – including nominations, notes and reports – have been classified and kept in the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s extensive archive.

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Leah Berry, a museum technician at the King Historic Site, installs photographs and documents that will be on display in the exhibit. Among them are photographs and reflections from his family when he won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Leah Berry, a museum technician at the King Historic Site, installs photographs and documents that will be on display in the exhibit. Among them are photographs and reflections from his family when he won the Nobel Peace Prize.

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Leah Berry, a museum technician at the King Historic Site, installs photographs and documents that will be on display in the exhibit. Among them are photographs and reflections from his family when he won the Nobel Peace Prize.

When King became the first Georgian and youngest person in history to win the Peace Prize, was competing with the man who would later sign into law many of the causes King championed, President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Johnson, who rose to the presidency in 1963 after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, ran for his own term in 1964 with a campaign to build “The Great Society,” which would focus on urban renewal, modern transportation, clean environment, anti-poverty, healthcare reform, crime control, and educational reform.

“Johnson had a very good reputation and he wasn’t necessarily wrong,” Young said. “He wanted to do the Great Society before the Voting Rights Act, because he felt poverty was an element that was nonracial. Everybody had poor folks. But we were under so much pressure from Alabama to get voting rights done.”

Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. And in 1965 he signed the Voting Rights Act, which protected the rights of all eligible Americans to vote.

“He beat Johnson. He beat William Tubman, the president of Liberia,” said Joy Kinard, acting chief of interpretation at the King Historic Site. “This Baptist preacher from Atlanta who went to Morehouse. That shows the power of the black community and the power of his message. It showed what you can do if you are unselfish and try your best to stand up for what is right.”

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