Letter from Mississippi -- December 21, 1965
Updated: 9 August 2013
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I had completely forgotten that I had written a Christmas Card to Mayor McLean that year. When I bought Rev. Bill McAtee's book, Transformed: A White Mississippi Pastor's Journey Into Civil Rights and Beyond, I naturally looked at the index to see if I was mentioned, which turned out to be the case in a number of instances. One of those was a reference to the fact that a Christmas card from me to Mayor McLean had been found in the mayor's race-relations file. It was quoted in full. When I finally got in touch with Bill McAtee, he sent me a scanned copy of the card. This is the copy, somewhat darkened for readability.


I find this poem quite appropriate for you in terms of more standard Mississippi responses to the Movement.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth...

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference

                  -- Robert Frost

I hope for the sake of the country things are going well enough in Columbia to warrant some hope for a good new year for most of the people concerned. In addition to wiching you a very happy Christmas, as to all other good people, I think it's a good time of year to mention my respect and to a certain extent admiration for the way you and those who supported you acted as leaders (at least up until the time I left Columbia), even if it did pose problems for those of us who followed the "other" side. And I should offer thanks for my opportunity to experienc this new year, since there is little doubt that I and several other people owe our lives to the attitude taken by you and other Columbia leaders in favor of what rights our country is based on. Good luck in continuing...

                  -- Richard Atlee

P.S. give my regards to Mr. [Police Chief] Johnson. I hope he gained something constructive from this summer (at least more than he appeared to).