An early reply to this invitation, with an indication of the time you may reach our city, will greatly oblige,
Yours very respectfully,
The Charleston Daily Gazette, The Daily Mail-Tribune;
Atkinson, Governor; E.L. Boggs, Secretary to Governor; Wm. M.O.
Dawson, Secretary of State; L.M. La Follette, Auditor; J.R.
Trotter, Superintendent of Schools; E.W. Wilson, ex-Governor;
W.A. MacCorkle, ex-Governor; John Q. Dickinson, President Kanawha
Valley Bank; L. Prichard, President Charleston National Bank;
Geo. S. Couch, President Kanawha National Bank; Ed. Reid, Cashier
Kanawha National Bank; Geo. S. Laidley, Superintended City
Schools; L.E. McWhorter, President Board of Education; Chas. K.
Payne, wholesale merchant; and many others.
This invitation, coming as it did from the City Council, the state officers, and all the substantial citizens of both races of the community where I had spent my boyhood, and from which I had gone a few years before, unknown, in poverty and ignorance, in quest of an education, not only surprised me, but almost unmanned me. I could not understand what I had done to deserve it all.
I accepted the invitation, and at the appointed day was met at the railway station at Charleston by a committee headed by ex-Governor W.A. MacCorkle, and composed of men of both races. The public reception was held in the Opera-House at Charleston. The Governor of the state, the Hon. George W. Atkinson, presided, and an address of welcome was made by ex-Governor MacCorkle. A prominent part in the reception was taken by the coloured citizens. The Opera-House was filled with citizens of both races, and among the white people were many for whom I had worked when I was a boy. The next day Governor and Mrs. Atkinson gave me a public reception at the State House, which was attended by all classes.
Not long after this the coloured people in Atlanta, Georgia, gave me a reception at which the Governor of the state presided, and a similar reception was given me in New Orleans, which was presided over by the Mayor of the city. Invitations came from many other places which I was not able to accept.
Before going to Europe some events came into my life which were great surprises to me. In fact, my whole life has largely been one of surprises. I believe that any man’s life will be filled with constant, unexpected encouragements of this kind if he makes up his mind to do his level best each day of his life—that is, tries to make each day reach as nearly as possible the high-water mark of pure, unselfish, useful living. I pity the man, black or white, who has never experienced the joy and satisfaction that come to one by reason of an effort to assist in making some one else more useful and more happy.