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Each year in January, Bishop Woodie W. White, Candler's bishop-in-residence writes a “birthday letter” to Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Beginning in 1976 and becoming an annual tradition in 1985, the letter recounts strides and missteps in matters of race during the previous year.

“It was a way to get kind of a year’s assessment on what the nation was accomplishing and not accomplishing in the area of race,” says White in an interview with Religion News Service.

“I did it because, frankly, I needed to have perspective. I needed to not get discouraged, and I needed it to be affirming of progress in race which had taken place over the course of a year.”

In this year's letter, White speaks about the significant losses of Mrs. Evelyn Gibson Lowery, the wife of Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, civil rights activist, and South African President and civil rights leader Nelson Mandela.

"It is my remembering of you, Martin, and of Mrs. Lowery and Nelson Mandela that moves me from a sense of despair and discouragement. I remember three lives worthy of emulation in a common drive for justice and equality. At the core of each is an affirmation of our common humanity, of our Christian belief that we are brothers and sisters, children of a common creator."

Read the Religion News Service article "'Dear Martin': Bishop’s letters to MLK trace the highs and lows in race relations" here: bit.ly/1jbIu7d