Volume 6 Number 2
"A Witness to Truth"
Martin Luther King Jr.'s Eulogy
for PTS Alum James J. Reeb
to the Truth"
And if he should
These beautiful words from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet so eloquently describe the radiant life of James Reeb. He entered the stage of history just 38 years ago, and in the brief years that he was privileged to act on this mortal stage, he played his part exceedingly well. James Reeb was martyred in the Judeo-Christian faith that all men are brothers. His death was a result of a sensitive religious spirit. His crime was that he dared to live his faith; he placed himself alongside the disinherited black brethren of this community.
The world is aroused over the murder of James Reeb. For he symbolizes the forces of good will in our nation. He demonstrated the conscience of the nation. He was an attorney for the defense of the innocent in the court of world opinion. He was a witness to the truth that men of different races and classes might live, eat, and work together as brothers.
James Reeb could not be accused of being only concerned about justice for Negroes away from home. He and his family live in Roxbury, Massachusetts, a predominantly Negro community. [They] devoted their lives to aiding families in low-income housing areas. Again, we must ask the question: Why must good men die for doing good? "O Jerusalem, why did you murder the prophets and persecute those who come to preach your salvation?" So the Reverend James Reeb has something to say to all of us in his death.
Naturally, we are compelled to ask the question, Who killed James Reeb? The answer is simple and rather limited, when we think of the who. He was murdered by a few sick, demented, and misguided men who have the strange notion that you express dissent through murder. There is another haunting, poignant, desperate question we are forced to ask this afternoon, that I asked a few days ago as we funeralized James Jackson. It is the question, What killed James Reeb? When we move from the who to the what, the blame is wide and the responsibility grows.
To view the suggested discussion questions, you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer. To download a free copy of Acrobat Reader, please click here.
© Copyright 2001 Princeton Theological Seminary