Wednesday, January 4, 2006 at 11:26 AM

Martin Luther King Jr was also a womanizer…So what!

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

On last Sunday’s edition of Meet the Press, Newsweek’s Jon Meacham recommended – as a must read for this year – the final volume of Taylor Branch’s biographical trilogy of Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) entitled At Canaan’s Edge. And, having read his first two volumes (and excerpts from this one), I second that recommendation.

However, I suspect Meacham recommended Branch’s book because of its informative behind-the-scenes account of the political intrigue that beset the Civil Rights Movement (including MLK’s power struggles with upstarts like Jesse Jackson, and warrantless wiretaps [No, Bush was not the first to order spying on American citizens] by the FBI seeking information to undermine his moral authority).

On the other hand, TIME’s editors seem to think that teasing readers with innuendos about MLK’s private life is a more effective way to feature his book … and no doubt to maximize sales of their weekly magazine.

Of course, thanks to former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, we already know as much about MLK’s womanizing as we do about JFK’s. Yet I’m sure that interest in Branch’s fascinating details about the complex and often fractious relationships amongst the leaders of the movement will pale in comparison to interest in the few details he provides about MLK’s relationships with women.

But, since I believe that TIME is exploiting “The Secret Agony” of MLK for patently commercial purposes, I hereby provide a tease that I hope will inflate sales of Branch’s scholarly book whilst deflating interest in TIME’s trashy story:

His womanizing was the source of such agonizing moral conflict that MLK was compelled to confess his most enduring extramarital affair to his wife at “her most vulnerable moment – days after she recovered from a hysterectomy.

There! Awful, isn’t it? And we all thought Newt Gingrich was an unconscionable jerk for trying to discuss divorce terms with his wife whilst she was in a hospital bed recovering from surgery for uterine cancer….

NOTE: The only redeeming feature of TIME’s cover is that – by highlighting this aspect of MLK’s life – it might lead to a cognitive dissonance that disabuses Americans of their naïve and hypocritical regard for marital fidelity. After all, there seems to be such a probative correlation between great leaders and womanizing (think Thomas Jefferson, JFK, Bill Clinton, and even wannabe-great Jesse Jackson) that it behooves us to be more accepting of this “tragic flaw”.


This book is worth the read, despite the sex!


  1. Anonymous January 4, 2006 at 4:32 pm

    Whether or not someone in politics is faithful to their spouse has nothing to do in my opinion with how effective or ineffective they are as a political leader or in any socio economic function. Clinton did a fabulous job while in office in my opinion and that is all that was dwelled upon was an affair towards the end. The Country was thriving, world relations were good. In contrast, women can be and are just as unfaithful nowadays. This does not mean that this same woman cannot be a good physician, lawyer or mother because she has affairs. It is no one’s business who is in who’s bedroom.


  2. Anonymous January 4, 2006 at 4:49 pm

    Amen Mary… I have had about all I can take from the professional talking heads (and those who follow them blindly) as they try to define the moral boundaries. Maybe my view is a bit narrow, but aside from my wife, I really don’t care who is sleeping with who.


  3. Anonymous January 4, 2006 at 5:34 pm

    Bravo Mary and Rage….

    This is a truly brilliant piece of writing Mr ALH. Though I could never express it so well and in such topical context too, I have long felt this way about the obsession in America about the private lives of their politicians, like that Monica Lewinsky business. Your slamming the profit motives of TIME was also priceless. Well done.


  4. Anonymous January 4, 2006 at 6:27 pm

    it must be so easy for you to sit on your high horse an say the rest of us should get over men who cheat on their wives. but if he can’t be trusted to honor his marriage or religious vows then martin luther king is no better than all the other low-lifes who step out on their wives and families. you need to be born again my brother!!!

  5. Anonymous January 4, 2006 at 6:45 pm

    Religious (Designee) Anonymous Without Signature-
    This is what bothers me about ultra religious people in their religious boat. There are other international and national humanitarian topics that should take precedence over this continued foolish controversy of fidelity amongst partners (some people actually have open marriages – who is anyone to judge this situation?) such as eradication of child pornography, female circumsicion (mutiliation of female children’s genitilia), poverty and wars. Why not spend some of that energy on these issues and making a difference as opposed to obsession with sexuality between consenting adults and what takes place in the privacy of one’s home?


  6. Anonymous January 4, 2006 at 6:55 pm

    Anthony, James and Rage, it pleases me to hear other progressives…other kindred spirits cognizant of pertinent issues…sometimes my pseudo-intelllectual friend Amber and I have felt that we were the only community of the sane….and that there was no where we could turn any longer on this planet…
    you are a breath of fresh air

  7. Anonymous January 4, 2006 at 8:40 pm


    it dont surprise me that men would see nothing wrong about steppin out on their wives but i don’t get you girl. i suppose you one of them desperate anything my man wants is fine by me women. i think you need jesus and therapy.

    and my name is lisa johnson and i live on los angeles!

  8. Anonymous January 4, 2006 at 8:54 pm

    Lisa ..I think you gotten the wrong impression about me…First, I am no girl, I am a Woman and I am hardly a little mouse sitting in the corner for a few morsels to chew that my husband will throw at me…to the contrary…I am very liberated and just how do you know that I don’t step out on my husband? Or whether or not we have an open marriage? How do you do know that I have not found Jesus? You are rather presumptious and by the way..who made you the designee over how anyone else should live?

    Mary…Bay Area

  9. allie January 4, 2006 at 11:06 pm

    Hi Mary – I told a few of my friends about your comments and how Ms Johnson from Los Angeles responded and we all wondered how we would react. I don’t think any of us would have handled her with the class you showed.

    Way to go.


  10. Mary January 5, 2006 at 4:20 pm

    Thank you for your very kind words Allie..I try to take the high road whenever I can …

  11. Anonymous January 16, 2006 at 10:17 pm

    When you get married, you vow to “…forsake all others”. If you break that vow, then no, it doesn’t make you a bad physician or lawyer. It does, however make you a liar and at the very least someone of questionable character. In terms of public service, it’s not about the morality (or lack thereof) of committing adultery. It’s about the uncertainty that exists concerning the integrity of a person who betrays the most solemn of vows. Clinton’s affair was not what was “dwelled upon”. It was the fact that he looked his fellow countrymen in the eye, pointed his finger in their face, and LIED. My argument boils down to this: If you will lie to the one you supposedly care about more than anyone in the world, how could anyone else ever trust you with anything?

  12. Tally September 1, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    It’s all up to the spouses to determine what happens in their relationship. If one is not satisfied, THEY WILL CHEAT! It’s human behavior, and how are politicians and world leaders excluded from human behavior? Did Clinton botch his presidency while having an affair? No! He did a pretty darn good job, in fact.

    Marriage is supported by TWO people, not ONE person. If one collapses, then the other will do so as well. That is what people fail to comprehend about infidelity and ask the question, “Why did they cheat?”
    They KNOW that it’s morally wrong, and they KNOW it’s a lie, but they justify it by blaming it on others.

    And when you’ve got the nation’s future on the line, why the heck should you care about what happens in their personal life? Shouldn’t it be the quality of what they do in public eye matter? If Martin Luther King Jr. cheated on his wife, did that effect the Civil Rights Movement? I didn’t think so. Here we are, TODAY, perhaps facing our first African American elected to presidency. That’s a big accomplishment that King should at least have some credit in, as well as Obama.


  13. jack October 15, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    okay, i’ll bite. i strongly disagee with mary.

  14. jack October 15, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    mary, it does matter how one conducts him/herself in their personal life, as well as in their professional life. the two are insepretable when one is given previlege to serving the public. an act of infidelity by a public servant, especially on the grand scale of being the President or a high ranking governing officer, should not only be looked as an act of immorality(whatever that is) but more importantly, an egregious act of being unethical. that’s the problem with people like mary, they will sell out their own belief in regards to ethics, in order to validate their polical partisanship. ethics, the lack there of, is why we are in an economic mess we’re in now. for the record i am an agnostic and not a republican. also, i think most of these acts of infidelity take place in hotel/motel rooms and not in our homes, as so many of you listed.

  15. Thomas November 23, 2008 at 2:25 am

    “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female
    and said ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh’?
    So then, they are no longer two but one flesh.”

    Matthew 19:4-6

  16. Genia January 20, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    Personally, I feel that marital infidelity is reflective of a person’s true moral & ethical convictions & strength. For me, it is difficult to separate any & all good a person may accomplish in their life when at least one crucial component of their behavior is not honorable. If they can waiver in their marital vows, where else & when might they be equivocal.

  17. Doug September 19, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    It wasn’t like MLK just had a little “affair”. Once you look beneath the surface you discover that he was more depraved than the average perv. There are several stories of MLK being caught in embarrassing sexual situations which were all motivated by his own out of control libido. Oh, and as far as the wire tapping goes, it was ordered by the democrats in power and was done because of MLKs suspected and later confirmed communist ties.

  18. stephan October 1, 2009 at 10:50 am

    good job doug you have the most facts then anyone that has posted yyet but you left somethings out

    1. the person who ordered the wire taps on kings hotel rooms was the attorney general bobby kennedy

    2.not only was king a womenizer he was arrested for running after a women naked in a hotel that is worst then what bill cliton did.

    3. king was a communist this is not a lie it was confirmed by correta king who was handed a file containing all of the wire taps down on king that file is to be relased to the public in the year 2027

    4. why everywhere he went when he preached of non-violence that violence often ensued and dont say that the police used violence because they were just standing around no something happened and then the police acted.

    5. also the wire taps will show that king was gay yes thats right gay he had homosexual relations with another minister

    so mary or whoever wants to say that we should not judgee on the personal life of our politics well i guess you would like a communsits as presidents i dont know you can check my claims and when you find out they right you can try and write something about this topic but i dont think that you will be able to.

  19. Je' November 21, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    I see the argument that one’s personal ethics have nothing to do with their professional ethics, as if we can divide ourselves somehow. Even non-religious people are devastated when the person they love betrays their trust, and lies and cheats on them (Cheating always involves lying) Rather than try to say it all right, admit it is not all right, and though the person may have made a difference for good in other areas, the cheating itself is morally reprehensible.

  20. eddie munsey December 16, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    Pathetic is what you are. The implication that we should be more receptive lying and infidelity is totally insane. No wonder your filthy rag of a magazine verges on collapse.

  21. Jim January 13, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Fidelity has everything to do with leadership. When leadership is motivated buy the charge for greatness, money, fame, etc vs. service to their fellow man then the illusions that come with being elevated lead one to believe they are above the law, so to speak, in the moral realm and will do what their flesh desires and the circumstances opportunity and become womanizers. To suggest that womanizing is at attribute of greatness is quite misguided.

  22. Lorrie Meija January 17, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    It doesn’t bother me that he slept with other women, especially if his wife was foolish enough to put up with him. It bothers me that there was proof that he beat women he hired for sex. Nobody wants to address this; there are recordings of him abusing women. This is enough to make me not respect him; not the adultery.

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