50 years after his death, CNY man treasures letter he received from Martin Luther King Jr.

A Fayetteville man tells us that receiving a letter from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was "huge" and that it was a major influence on his life (CNYCentral Photo)

The anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's assassination on Wednesday has special meaning to a Fayetteville resident, who is living proof that the civil rights leader's impact was felt around the globe.

Ken Takeda was a high school junior in Japan when his social studies teacher introduced him to the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. King's book "Stride Toward Freedom," about the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Takeda said he was already interested in America, and the book — translated to Japanese — got him interested in the Baptist minister from Alabama who headed up the Civil Rights Movement.

"They were so organized, so disciplined, I was very impressed with that," Takeda said.

He was so impressed, in fact, that he decided to write a letter to King himself.

Step one was translating the thoughts into English. That took about a month of looking up each word in a dictionary.

Step two was finding the address. Takeda went to the U.S. Consulate in Nagoya, which told him to send the letter to Montgomery, Alabama. So Takeda put the name on the envelope, and Montgomery, Alabama.

It came back after several months.

So Takeda went back to the consulate and was told to send it to Atlanta, Georgia. He re-addressed the letter — still no street address — and did not hear anything for three months.

That is, until his brother told him "you have a letter from America."

"This letter gave me tremendous hope, in a difficult time in my life," Takeda said.

It arrived on the day his mother passed away. A few years later, Dr. King's assassination came on Takeda's birthday.

And those are not the only connections.

In reading "Stride Toward Freedom," Takeda noted that Dr. King stressed the importance of education and he decided to become a teacher. He has since spent 35 years teaching kindergarten and elementary students.

Takeda and his wife visited King's grave and he said a prayer to be able to emigrate to the United States.

That dream came true four years later.

Now the letter has a place of pride in Takeda's Fayetteville home, next to the yellowed clipping of a teenager holding it, when it first arrived.

"Receiving his letter was so huge," he said.

Fifty years after King's death, it still is huge in his heart.

The letter reads:

This is to acknowledge receipt of your very kind letter of recent date. Thank you for your generous statement concerning the rights of men and your deep love and respect for our late president. Your encouraging words are of inestimable value for the continuance of our humble efforts. Our struggle is often difficult, and the moments are often frustrating, butr we gain new courage to carry on where we realize that persons of good will, such as you, are supporting us in the background. Although the days are now dark, I am convinced that we stand on the threshold of our nation's bright tomorrows.
Sincerely yours,
Martin Luther King Jr.
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