ORFORD, N.H. -- President Reagan expressed reservations about a national holiday for Martin Luther King Jr. in a letter to former New Hampshire Gov. Meldrim Thomson in which he said many people base their support for the holiday on an 'image,' not reality, Thomson said Friday.
The conservative Republican released part of a letter he received from Reagan Oct. 3 in response to a letter from Thomson criticizing a King holiday.
Reagan's letter said, in part, 'On the national holiday you mentioned, I have the reservations you have. But here the perception of too many people is based on an image, not reality. Indeed to them the perception is reality. We hope that some modifications might take place in Congress.'
Thomson said he sent a telegram to the president Friday urging him to veto the Martin Luther King bill, passed overwhelmingly by the Senate Wednesday. The bill, passed by the House in August, designates the third Monday in January a federal holiday. The slain civil rights leader was born in that month.
Reagan said this week he will sign the bill because of its symbolic value. But he said he would have preferred an informal observance instead of giving federal workers another day off.
A White House spokesman Friday confirmed that Reagan sent Thomson a letter but did not comment on the specifics, saying the president had addressed a variety of subjects in the note.
Thomson, a former three-term governor who frequently made national news with his staunchly conservative views, said the president's letter was in response to a Sept. 30 letter he sent to Reagan.
'Here in New Hampshire,' Thomson wrote then, 'it is expected that you will again seek the first-in-the-nation Republican presidential nomination. This time, you could fail in that quest. Certainly things will be worse for you if, for example, you persist in the following.'
Thomson said one of the main items he listed was 'establishing a national holiday for Martin Luther King Jr. and thus honoring the memory of a man of immoral character whose frequent associations with leading agents of communism is well-established.'
Thomson wrote Reagan again Friday in a telegram: 'If you sign the bill, thousands of your supporters here in New Hampshire will perceive your action as they do that of conservative congressmen and senators who voted for the bill. Namely, that you, like they, sacrificed principle for the political expediency of anticipated votes next year.
'Since you have reservations about the matter and had hoped for some modifications of the bill by the Congress, I suggest that you at least send the bill back to Congress to achieve those modifications,' Thomson wrote.
The former governor said he thinks the King holiday controversy is 'very important' to Reagan's anticipated run for re-election.
'There's no sound reason to make a memorial to a man who it's venerally conceded by FBI papers and books on the subject that he was manipulated by the communists and had very close associations with them, particularly in the last few years of his life,' Thomson said.