A decade before his shocking assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on behalf of the Montgomery Improvement Association, sent a thoughtful letter and a $1,000 check to Thurgood Marshall, then director-counsel and founder of theNAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF), the civil-rights organization I’m now blessed to lead.

King wrote that the purpose of the letter and the modest contribution — which he wished wasn’t so modest, perhaps because he knew the real costs of legal representation in the trenches — was to express his “deep sense of gratitude” for our work “for not only the Negro in particular but American Democracy in general.”

“You continue winning the legal victories for us and we will work passionately and unrelentingly to implement these victories on the local level through non-violent means,” King wrote, singling out our legal assistance in his organization’s struggle to help desegregate the Montgomery bus system.

Read the full op-ed here.